Anda di halaman 1dari 202

589

The Avatars of Virtual Representation

Romanian Political Science Review


vol. XI, no. 4
2011

Acest volum a fost


publicat cu sprijinul
financiar al FUNDAIEI
KONRAD ADENAUER
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

590

CAMIL-ALEXANDRU PRVU

STUDIA POLITICA
Romanian Political Science Review

The end of the Cold War, and the extinction of communism both as an ideology and
a practice of government, not only have made possible an unparalleled experiment
in building a democratic order in Central and Eastern Europe, but have opened up a
most extraordinary intellectual opportunity: to understand, compare and eventually
appraise what had previously been neither understandable nor comparable. Studia
Politica. Romanian Political Science Review was established in the realization that the
problems and con cerns of both new and old democracies are beginning to converge.
The journal fosters the work of the first generations of Romanian political scientists
permeated by a sense of critical engagement with European and American intellectual
and political traditions that inspired and explained the modern notions of democracy,
pluralism, political liberty, individual freedom, and civil rights.
Believing that ideas do matter, the Editors share a common commitment as intellectuals
and scholars to try to shed light on the major political problems facing Romania, a
country that has recently undergone unprecedented political and social changes. They
think of Studia Politica. Romanian Politica Science Review as a challenge and a mandate
to be involved in scholarly issues of fundamental importance, related not only to the
democratization of Roma nian polity and politics, to the great transformation that is
taking place in Central and Eastern Europe, but also to the make-over of the assumptions
and prospects of their discipline. They hope to be joined in by those scholars in other
countries who feel that the demise of communism calls for a new political science able
to reassess the very foundations of democratic ideals and procedures.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

591

The Avatars of Virtual Representation

UNIVERSITY OF BUCHAREST
DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE
INSTITUTE FOR POLITICAL RESEARCH

Romanian Political Science Review

STUDIA POLITICA
vol. XI, no. 4
2011

BUCURETI
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

592

CAMIL-ALEXANDRU PRVU

STUDIA POLITICA
(ISSN 1582-4551)

Romanian Political Science Review


is published quarterly by the Institute for Political Research
of the Department of Political Science at the University of Bucharest
and is printed and mailed by the C.H. Beck Publishing House

International Advisory Board


Mauro CALISE (Napoli), Dominique COLAS (Paris)
Jean-Michel DE WAELE (Bruxelles), Raffaella GHERARDI (Bologna)
Guy HERMET (Paris), Hans-Dieter KLINGEMANN (Berlin)
Marc LAZAR (Paris), Ronald H. LINDEN (Pittsburgh)
Pierre MANENT (Paris), Leonardo MORLINO (Roma)
Gianfranco PASQUINO (Bologna), Cristian PREDA (Bucharest)
Antoine ROGER (Bordeaux), Giovanni SARTORI (New York)
Daniel-Louis SEILER (Aix-en-Provence)
Editor
Alexandra IONESCU
Editorial Board
Andrei NICULESCU, Mihai CHIOVEANU, Ruxandra IVAN
Caterina PREDA, Matei DEMETRESCU
Editorial Staff
Oana DIMITRIU (executive editor)
Ctlin MANTU (manuscript production), Anca VASILE (manuscript processing)

Institutul de Cercetri Politice

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

The Avatars of Virtual Representation

593

Art and Politics in (Post)communism

ARGUMENTUM
CATERINA PREDA, Art and Politics in (Post)communism. The Transformation
of Institutions and Artistic Practices in Central and Eastern Europe ......................... 597

ARTICULI
SIMON PAUL BELL, Laibach and the NSK: Ludic Paradigms of Postcommunism ................. 609
AMY CHARLESWORTH, Warte Mal!. Construction and Consumption of Female
Subjectivity after the Velvet Revolution ....................................................................... 621
ANDREI POAM, Il tait une fois un pays. Propagande, pouvoir et tnbres dans
lUnderground dEmir Kusturica (1995) ................................................................... 633
MARINA ALINA ASAVEI, A Theoretical Excursus on the Concept of Political Art
in Communism and its Aftermath ................................................................................ 647
FLORENTINA ANDREESCU, The Changing Face of the Sacrificial Romanian Woman
in Cinematographic Discourses .................................................................................... 661
ELENA ARHIRE, Le Centre National de la Cinmatographie: articulations
du postcommunisme roumain....................................................................................... 675
CRISTINA STOENESCU, Continuiti i contraste n spaiul artistic postcomunist romnesc ..... 687
TIJEN TUNALI, The Politics of Roma Inclusion at the 52nd Venice Art Biennale ............... 701
ZORAN POPOSKI, Spaces of Democracy: Art, Politics and Artivism in
the Post-socialist City ................................................................................................... 713
ELENA GKARTZONIKA, Post-Cold War Trajectories of Memory and Oblivion
in Bulgaria and Kosovo ................................................................................................. 725

RECENSIONES
JACQUES RANCIRE, The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible,
Continuum, London, New York, 2010 (ALEXANDRA IRIMIA) ...................................................739

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

594

CAMIL-ALEXANDRU PRVU

JACQUES RANCIRE, Dissensus: on Politics and Aesthetics. Edited and translated


by STEVEN CORCORAN, Continuum International Publishing Group,
Great Britain, 2010 (ANDRA GRIGORE) .......................................................................................741
MICHAEL SHAPIRO, Cinematic Geopolitics, Routledge, New York, 2009 (IRINA VELICU) .................744
MICHAEL SHAPIRO, The Time of the City: Politics, Philosophy, and Genre,
Routledge, New York, 2010 (JOHN SWEENEY) ...........................................................................747
BORIS GROYS, Art Power, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2008 (GABRIELA CALCHI-NOVATI) .......................753
PIOTR PIOTROWSKI, In the Shadow of Yalta. The Avant-garde in Eastern Europe, 1945-1989,
translated by Anna Brzyski, Reaktion Books, London, 2009 (ALEXANDRA NEACU) .........756
ANCA BENERA, ALINA ERBAN (ed.), Bucureti. Materie i istorie. Monumentul public
i distopiile lui, R.A. Monitorul Oficial, Bucureti, 2010 (ELENA ARHIRE) .............................761
CRISTIAN VASILE, Literatura i artele n Romnia comunist: 1948-1953, Humanitas,
Seria Istorie contemporan, Bucureti, 2010 (RALUCA PETRE-ANDOR) ................................766
IOANA MACREA-TOMA, Privileghenia: Instituii literare n comunismul romnesc,
Casa Crii de tiin, Cluj-Napoca, 2009 (LIANA IONI) .....................................................769

ABSTRACTS...................................................................................................................... 775

AUTORES........................................................................................................................... 779

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Art and Politics in (Post)communism

ARGUMENTUM
Art and Politics in (Post)communism

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

595

596

CATERINA PREDA

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

597

Art and Politics in (Post)communism

Art and Politics in (Post)communism

The Transformation of Institutions and Artistic


Practices in Central and Eastern Europe
CATERINA PREDA
The selection of articles published in this special issue on art and politics in
(post)communism shows the plurality of foci and approaches the study of art and
politics entails. The interrogations this special issue addresses situate communist art
and culture in their connections to politics in the postcommunist countries of Central
and Eastern Europe. How were artistic institutions transformed by the changes of
regime? and How did the double transition (political and economic) affect the
artistic domain? are the questions that look at the institutional transformations and to
which the articles of Elena Arhire (the case of Romanian Council of Cinematography)
and Cristina Stoenescu (Union of Visual Artists in Romania) provide partial answers.
Artistic practices and discourses are analyzed by such interrogations as How are
artistic discourses transformed in the aftermath of communism? and How is the
communist past deconstructed by artists?. The articles signed by Simon Bell and
Amy Charlesworth can offer interesting perspectives on such topics. Different artistic
mediums are tackled: film (Poam and Andreescus articles), visual arts (Tunali, Bell,
Charlesworth, Stoenescu) and several theoretical frameworks are used. A further
article, that of Alina Asavei, compares the meanings of political art, both under
state-socialism and during the democratization process.
Moreover, the reviews included in this special issue continue this attempt to
situate the study of art and politics during postcommunism by providing a theoretical
background. Reviews of works by contemporary philosophers and theoreticians are
included: Jacques Rancire (Dissennsus: on Politics and Aesthetics and The Politics of
Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible), Michael Shapiro (Cinematic Geopolitics
and The Time of the City: Politics, Philosophy, and Genre), and Boris Groys (Art Power).
Likewise, an important review presents the work of the art critic Piotr Piotrowski
(In the Shadow of Yalta: Art and the Avant-garde in Eastern Europe, 1945-1989). Several
Romanian volumes published recently (Cristian Vasile, Literatura i artele n Romnia
comunist: 1948-1953, Ioana Macrea-Toma, Privileghenia: Instituii literare n comunismul
romnesc, and Anca Benera, Materie i istorie. Monumentul public i distopiile lui), further
help to situate the postcommunist problematic from the perspective of the study of
the relationship of art and politics in the Romanian case.
Furthermore, this special issue is part of a wider attempt to theorize the relation
between art and politics, especially in dictatorial and post-dictatorial settings1. Along

1
See in this sense my PhD thesis which theorizes the relationship between art and politics
in modern dictatorships through a discussion of two extreme cases, those of Chile and Romania.
Caterina PREDA, Dictators and Dictatorships Artistic Expressions of the Political: Romania and Chile
(1970s-1989) No pas nada?, Dissertation.com, Florida, 2009.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

598

CATERINA PREDA

with the course on Art and politics1 organized at the Department of Political Sciences,
University of Bucharest since 2006, this effort to theoretically structure the study of art
and politics welcomes a variety of methods.

Theoretical and Institutional Landmarks


of the Study of Art and Politics
Some basic questions can be asked in regard to the theoretical approach advanced
here: What is art and politics? How to study this relationship? and How to study it in
the period of democratic reconstruction?
First of all, art and politics is a wide-ranging (sub)field of political science, still
under construction with several topics being developed and stemming from several
perspectives. There are also different focuses: institutions (including cultural policies,
cultural management, and artistic institutions), artworks per se, and the artists. There
are of course different emphases in relation to the type of artistic expression studied:
visual arts, literature, cinematography, theater, dance or music2.
From a strict perspective of political science, politics and the art, as a subfield,
has developed especially since the 1980s onward. In the North American case, the
focus was placed on artistic practices in democracies as a new space for political
theory enrichment. As Maureen Whitebrook recalls:
Over the past 20 years or so, American political science has shown some
interest in the way in which politics and literature might be connected as an
aid to political understanding [] a newsletter among 200 political scientists
circulated and regular panels at APSA meetings were held as well as an attempt
to form a politics and literature section in the APSA3.

Additionally, Whitebrook was one of the founders, in 1995, of the Politics and the
Arts Standing Group inside the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR)
that meets now annually and organizes its own conferences inside or outside the ECPR,
administers a newsletter (Polarts) and publishes its works4. This line of study has been
elaborated primarily in relation to the literary field: the narrative turn followed by
the studies of Alasdair Mac Intyre, Richard Rorty and Charles Taylor. Recently, it also
included visual arts practices: film, photography, visual arts in general.

1
Art(s) et politique(s), course for the undergraduates in the French Department of the University of Bucharest organized annually since 2006 during one semester of the academic year.
2
My main references here relate to either literary expressions or visual arts.
3
Maureen WHITEBROOK, Introduction, in IDEM (ed.), Reading Political Stories. Representations of Politics in Novels and Pictures, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Boston, 1992, p. 2,
n. 1, p. 21.
4
For the history of the Polarts group see: http://www.jyu.fi/yhtfil/polarts/meetings.
html (accessed 31.10.2011). At the ECPR General conference held in Reykjavik in August 2011
there was an entire section dedicated to Politics and the Arts in a time of crisis and anxiety
with five panels: Artful practices of resistance; New pathways to knowledge: combining arts
and social science research; Political symbols between impact and intentions; Politics and the
arts in the digital age and Senses of violence?

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Art and Politics in (Post)communism

599

This diverse group of researchers and research topics is loosely institutionalized


through several meetings organized inside the American Political Science Association
(APSA) politics and literature, politics, literature, and film sections and the ECPR
conferences Polarts. A further site for the investigation of this relationship is found
inside the Social Theory, Politics and the arts (STP&A) conferences organized since 1974.
The STP&A conferences have likewise included sporadically1 several panels closer to this
approach of art and politics investigating how the arts were influenced by politics
and vice versa, as well as analyzing the links between art and society2. Arnold Foster
registered the importance of the year 1983 since when those that study the connections
between politics and policy have become more influential inside the STP&A conferences,
as well as the importance granted to the study of the influence of society on art3.
The study of art and its importance for the political has been largely based
on Marxist theories and this although Marx did not elaborate an aesthetic theory.
Recently, Post-Marxism and neo-Marxist approaches of the way art reacts to the
political have dominated the studies of art and politics. The Frankfurt School
in particular has developed an understanding of the role of art in its relation with
the constant transformation of the contemporary society and its deployment of
mass cultural phenomena. In this sense, Adorno and Horkheimer, in Dialectic of
Enlightenment argued for the subsistence of negation only inside high art expressions
in this uniform society. For Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse and Lowenthal the new
techniques of cultural production and reception had to be understood in the context
of the decline of autonomous art and the rise of what Horkheimer and Adorno call
culture industry and their critique stems from the consideration that the new
products of mass culture served to enhance political control and to cement mass
audiences to the status quo4. The possibility art holds to convey a different message
is further underlined by Adorno when he states that art is autonomous as well as a
fait social. Through this double stance it can criticize society and take a position even
when ignoring the real; the power of art, for Adorno, resides in its capacity to negate
reality5. Walter Benjamin has been prominent in the recent studies of visual arts and
their connections with the political through his conceptualization of the lost aura of
the artwork. As he writes, in the epoch of technical reproduction, what disappears
in the artwork is its aura, that is its uniqueness6. Moreover, for Benjamin, to the
aestheticization of the political invented by fascism, communism responded through
arts politicization7.
1
In 2011 at the 37th STP&A conference organized at the University of Kentucky there was
no panel specifically dedicated to art and politics, but there were several papers presented on
connected topics included in separate panels. See the program of the conference: http://www.
stpaconference.com/home.html (accessed 04.11.2011).
2
Carrie LEE, Twenty Five Years of the Conference of Social Theory, Politics, and the Arts,
in Valerie B. MORRIS, David B. PANKRATZ (eds.), The Arts in A New Millennium: Research and
the Arts Sector, Praeger, Westport, Connecticut, London, 2003, pp. 211-223/p. 215.
3
Ibidem, p. 211.
4
David HELD, Introduction to Critical Theory: Horkheimer to Habermas, University of
California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, 1980, p. 88.
5
Theodor ADORNO, Teoria estetic, Romanian transl. by Andrei Corbea, Gabriel H.
Decuble, Cornelia Esianu, Paralela 45, Piteti, 2006, pp. 11, 321.
6
Walter BENJAMIN, LOeuvre dart lpoque de sa reproductibilit technique, in
IDEM, Oeuvres III, Gallimard, Paris, 2000, pp. 276, 273. Our translation from French.
7
Ibidem, p. 316.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

600

CATERINA PREDA

Similarly essential is the relationship between art and politics as defined by


Jacques Rancire, in terms of dissensus. Dissensus represents the essence of politics as
the manifestation of a gap in the sensible, as well as the kernel of what Rancire
labels the aesthetic regime a sensible mode of being specific to artistic products1.
Art and politics each define a form of dissensus, a dissensual re-configuration of
the common experience of the sensible and the role of art is to reconfigur[e] the
distribution of the sensible which defines the common of a community, to introduce
new subjects and objects, to render visible what had not been, and to make heard as
speakers, those who had been perceived as mere noisy animals2. Rancire does not
consider politically committed art as a category of art and he states that aesthetics
has its own politics, or its own meta-politics and furthermore that politics has its
aesthetics, and [conversely that] aesthetics has its politics3.
In the Polarts framework, and as part of the politics and the arts group are
authors that dwell into the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, Jacques
Rancire or Roland Barthes, and connect their ideas to visual arts examples. These
works include the writings of: Davide Panagia (sensation and its roles in the study
of politics), Michael Shapiro (from International Relations to cinematography and
politics, the new cities and the political), Kia Lindroos (visuality, cinematic narrative),
and Dana Arieli Horowitz (Israeli and Palestinian art, mainly photography) etc.
Although art has always developed in tight relationship to the political, it is only
with the advent of totalitarian regimes that a political analysis developed so as to
study it. This was so because totalitarian regimes were the first to intervene in the
artistic space and dictate their rules to art and artists to such an important extent.
Before the political had only touched upon art punctually through art patronage
and the establishment of institutions, academies in the 16th and 17th centuries, and
museums in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the 19th century, the modern state continued
in some cases the role of the monarchs and supported some artistic activities. It is only
in the 20th century that arts relations with other fields of human experience began
to be investigated. Art was previously analyzed from the perspective of aesthetics
that deals with the reception of art, the beautiful and taste, as well as from that of art
theory, concerned with the form and content of art works; additionally, art history has
dealt with the succession of artists, styles and schools. In the second half of the 20th
century the analysis of art became increasingly impregnated by social sciences which
dwelt on structuralism and post-structuralism, semiotics and deconstruction, cultural
theory, postcolonial studies and postmodernism. Additionally, economics (the study
of markets and artist studios, merchants etc.) and psychoanalysis (influencing the
theories of reception of art), as well as other contextual approaches (Marxism and
feminism for example) were used to study art. In France, art was analyzed, since
the beginning of the 20th century from a sociological perspective focusing on the
establishment of an autonomous artistic space (champ in the sense of Bourdieu)
through the creation of specific institutions4. It is only recently that the political has
been included in studies about art, still from a sociological point of view. In this sense,
1

Jacques RANCIRE, Dissensus, Continuum International Publishing Group, New York,


2010, pp. 38, 140; IDEM, The Politics of Aesthetics, Continuum, London, New York, 2010, p. 22.
2
IDEM, Dissensus...cit., p. 140; IDEM, Aesthetics and its Discontents, Polity Press, Malden,
MA, 2009, pp. 24-25.
3
IDEM, The Politics of Aesthetics, cit, pp. 60, 62.
4
Bruno PEQUIGNOT, Sociologie des arts, Armand Colin, Paris, 2009.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Art and Politics in (Post)communism

601

there is a variety of studies about art and politics in the francophone space mainly
in France and Belgium which deal with artworks and artists and the way these
are connected. These essays stem from a previous interest of the authors in Marxist
theory and aesthetics which they updated to present day trends and artists. See for
example the collective volumes edited by Jean March Lachaud: Art, culture et politique
(1999), Art et politique (2006) Changer lart. Transformer la socit. Art et politique 2 (2009)
or other edited volumes such as Arts et pouvoirs (edited by Marc Jimenez in 2007) or
Les formes contemporaines de lart engag (edited by Eric Van Esche in 2007).
The artist has an important role to play in the political realm. The concept of
the artist as a genius was put forward since the end of the 17th century, using his
imagination, in the 18th century during Romanticism, being isolated and autonomous
in relation to societyhas his own world, and is a being in his natural state1. The
role of the artist evolved once modern art brought forward a new type of artist. Since
the beginning of the 20th century modern art was torn between two poles: the art
created for itself art for arts sake, aesthetic only and art that tries to change life
as proclaimed by the avant-gardes, to alter reality and transform it into a work of
art (lartiste engag). Because of their status, increasingly at the modern epoch, artists
became those that reject the bourgeois world and its values and stress the power to
transform society and daily life through the use of art2. After politics has taken over
artistic means so as to change society, as the Soviet model of Socialist Realism testifies,
it is only in the 1960s and 1970s that artists are again found to react to the world and
once more art makes sense politically (Beuys and his enlarged field of art)3. Or, as
Daniel Van Der Gucht considers, there are in the 20th century two paradigms almost
opposed; in the period after 1968 a first absolutist paradigm of political art politics is
everything/art is everything is replaced with a new relativist paradigm everything
is political/everything is art with the element added by Beuys, everybody is an
artist4. Therefore, the role of the artist is paramount in both democratic and dictatorial
regimes as Negash writes,
without a doubt artists and intellectuals have always been in an advantageous and
privileged position to chronicle events, preserve the collective memory, perform the
role of teacher and seer, and become social critics [] Artists record and chronicle
the events and deeds of all time, construct and reconstruct realities as they imagine
them [] It is these representations that become part of our experience5.

The role of art in the understanding of the political is paramount. Murray Edelman
supports the idea that artworks shape our beliefs: People perceive and conceive in the

1
Laura ESQUIVEL, Lautonomie de lart en question. Lart en tant quArt, LHarmattan, Paris,
2008, p. 118.
2
Jean-Marc LACHAUD, Art et politique aujourdhui: organiser le pessimisme!, in
LUniversit des arts, Arts et pouvoir, Klincksieck, Sminaire Interarts de Paris 2005-2006, 2007,
pp. 77-93/p. 79.
3
Ibidem, p. 84.
4
Daniel VAN DER GUCHT, Pour en finir avec la mythologie de lartiste politique: de
lengagement la responsabilit, in Eric VAN ESSCHE (ed.), Les formes contemporaines dart
engag, La lettre vole, Collection Essais, Bruxelles, 2007, pp. 59-68/p. 84.
5
Girma NEGASH, Art Invoked: A Mode of Understanding and Shaping the Political,
International Political Science Review, vol. 25, no. 2, 2004, pp. 185-201, pp. 191-192.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

602

CATERINA PREDA

light of narratives, pictures and images1. The strongest argument made by Edelman
is that art constructs realities and so demonstrates how easily that can be done. Art
therefore may question the validity of the official or commonly disseminated version
of reality2. Edelman also stresses how democracy can be fostered by art because the
latter excites minds and feelingsand art can thus foster a reflective public that is
less inclined to act in a herd spirit3. This latter argument is similarly found in Charles
Hersch Democratic Artworks Politics and the Arts from Trilling to Dylan (1998), in which
he argues, that artworks can politically educate citizens and thus contribute to
democracy because imagination is central to political education [and] artworks are
ideal teachers4. Another important role played by art is underlined by Joel Kassiola
who advanced the concept of virtual experience which he borrowed from Susanne
Langer who used it first for the visual arts. Kassiola argues that this enlarging of
human experience through virtual experience is the major contribution of literature to
the quintessential normative political question of how we ought to act politically5. Lee
Sigelman puts forward another concept that is useful in understanding the way the
relationship between art and politics functions. Sigelman rejects the idea according to
which art mirrors lifeand fiction reflects society and believes a more appropriate
metaphor is that of prism, which decomposes ordinary white light into the colors
of the spectrumtransforms whatever passes through it into something new and
different6. In fact Sigelman too stresses the importance of imagining other worlds
that fiction underlines:
In order to understand the world we live in, it is often illuminating to
begin by imagining a very different world. Thus theorists like Locke, Hobbes
and Rousseau began by placing man in a state of naturebecause the conditions
they imagined in the state of nature set the stage for their accounts of life in
society7.

Despite of all these very different resources and the empirical necessity, as no
political science analysis exists, the inquiry advanced here has a twofold objective. To
begin with, to provide evidence that by studying arts in dictatorial and post-dictatorial
regimes (micro-approach) we can find out more about the regime themselves, about
the modalities in which they are assembled and, in the same time on their inbuilt
inconsistencies. We need to study the way societies perceive the life under dictatorships
and the way they react to the constant changes after 1990 as transmitted through the
means of the arts and their symbolic tactics. This complementary study can enrich our

1
Murray EDELMAN, From Art to Politics. How Artistisc Creations Shape Political Conceptions,
The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1995, p. 7.
2
Ibidem, p. 44.
3
Ibidem, p. 143.
4
Charles HERSCH, Democratic Artworks. Politics and the Arts from Trilling to Dylan, SUNY
Press, SUNY, 1998, pp. 1, 7.
5
Joel KASSIOLA, Political Values and Litterature: The Contribution of Virtual Experience,
in Maureen WHITEBROOK (ed.), Reading Political Stories. Representations of Politics in Novels and
Pictures, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Boston, 1992, pp. 53-72/p. 58.
6
Lee SIGELMAN, Taking Popular Fiction Seriously, in Maureen WHITEBROOK (ed.),
Reading Political Stories...cit., pp. 149-163, pp. 153, 155.
7
Ibidem.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Art and Politics in (Post)communism

603

understanding of these regimes by including the non-dits of political science studies


that ignore the reflections of these regimes in their citizens perceptions, examined
here through the means of works of art.

The Studies of Art in Postcommunism:


Institutions and Artistic Discourses, Memory
Communist states were over-determined ideologically and any artistic gesture
gained easily a political value or a political signification because of the overstratification of meanings. Artists were submitted to the ideological and institutional
control of the communist regimes. For example one could only create art if he or she
was member of the official professional institutions: the creative unions established
by the states in accordance with the imported Socialist Realist ideology. After the
transition to democracy in 1990, the role of the state in the artistic space was not
discussed and thus, is still very present. This connection to the past through the state
has been questioned by many contemporary artists who developed in the new context
in which a plurality of organizations and foundations accompany a nascent art market.
The way the past is constructed by the post-89 governments has been interrogated by
artistic discourses which try to offer multiple interpretations of the traumatic recent
past. The deceiving democratic experience and the ongoing problems entailed by the
market logic (and the recent economic crisis) have also provoked artistic responses
that prove helpful in our understanding of the limits of democratic consolidation in
the countries of Eastern Europe. The artistic reinterpretation of the recent past has been
a constant of the last years and it is seen in all sorts of supports: from films to visual
arts, theater plays, music, etc. The constant interest for artistic understandings of the
political in former communist states1 is acknowledged in the following articles.
As such, one of the topics of analysis of the postcommunist landscapes is that of
the artistic institutional reconstructions or transformations, the recoveries and continuities, the changes, and the non-democratic enclaves. Two of the articles included
in this special number discuss the Romanian case from the perspective of two
institutional transformations: that of the Union of Visual Artists (UAP), and that of
the National Center of Cinematography (CNC). Cristina Stoenescus article analyzes
the case of visual arts in Romania and of its specific professional union of artists, the
UAP, as well as its transformation after 1990 showing the incoherence of decisionmaking levels that could be used according to circumstances. Her article examines
in addition the artistic discourse of Dan Perjovschi, one of the most appreciated
Romanian contemporary artists. His artwork is socially and politically (re)active
and mixes the communist past with global politics. As the author recalls, the recent
situation created by the UAP sees a return to totalitarian practices, as today [again]
artists go back to their apartments, or in their private spaces, reminding us of the
confusion between the public and private space during the communist regime.
Elena Arhires discussion of the National Center of Cinematography (CNC) in
Romania highlights the continuities with the former communist institution and the
1

See for example the recent exhibition organized at the New Museum of New York,
Ostalgia (6 July-2 October 2011) and its accompanying catalogue: Jarrett GREGORY, Sarah
VALDEZ (eds.), Ostalgia, New Museum, New York, 2011.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

604

CATERINA PREDA

problems brought by these permanencies in the establishment of a new industry of


film. As the author shows this new institution was new only by name as it continued
a communist institution (which at its turn continued a pre-communist institution)
and the independence of Romanian film was made by the state through a form of
economic censorship.
In fact, the modification of control mechanisms such as censorship is observed by
several authors: from a political, ideologically determined censorship to an economical,
punitive one. Artistic discourses register the changes of the political and economic
systems as well as the continuous problems; such as the transformation of censorship,
from a political instrument to an economic reality. The safe distance in relation to a
past not completely absorbed by societies leads to the creation of what I call art of
memorialization, that is the construction through artistic means of another discourse
on the past than the officially sanctioned one1.
Visual arts examples are considered by several articles included in this special
issue. As such, Amy Charlesworth evokes the role of artist as ethnographic reporter
of sorts through her writing on Warte Mal! the work of Ann-Sofi Siden. Charlesworth
incites us to acknowledge once again the specificity of the aesthetic as a device to see
differently through a re-organized register and how there are always new ways to
live in the fissures of our changed nation states. Moreover, Simon Bell in his article,
Laibach and the NSK: Ludic Paradigms of postcommunism analyzes the work of a
Slovenian artistic group, Laibach that, deny and re-affirmthe post-socialist artist
as a caricature or degeneration of Socialist Realism and socialist culture. The author
underlines this transgressive space of moral suspension in the Slovenian context
evoking phenomena that are applicable to other postcommunist contexts. Identity
reconstruction in the aftermath of communism is the topic of the article signed by
Tijen Tunali. The argument focuses on the misrepresentation of the Roma and their
own conceptualization through an analysis of the organization of the 52nd Venice
Biennale and of the works included in this first pavilion dedicated to the Roma.
Memory and the rearticulation of practices in the aftermath of communism can
be understood through several of the articles included in this special issue. Artistic
remembrance of the past can be first seen in the form of what Igor Golomstock
called ideology in stone 2, that is, the architectural and monumental translations of
the ideological projects and what remains of their traces in the continuous present.
The article of Elena Gkartzonika analyzes the changes of signification of two such
monuments in Bulgaria and respectively nowadays Kosovo under the call to Forget
your past. Parallels with other communist countries can be drawn if one thinks of the
protochronist discourse in Ceauescus Romania and for example the 1300th anniversary
of the Bulgarian state staged by ivkovs daughter. Zoran Poposkis article introduces
the difficulty to articulate a public space in postcommunist times through a discussion
of the case of Skopje and a dtournement de signes the author himself stages. The overdomination of the public space by commercial banners and billboards (so familiar to
Romanians) is questioned and intervened by a series of artistic works.

1
See in this sense my discussion of the Romanian case in: Looking at the Past through an
Artistic Lens: Art of Memorialization, in History of Communism in Europe. Politics of Memory in
Post-communist Europe, new series, vol. 1, Zeta Books, Bucureti, 2010, pp. 129-148.
2
Igor GOLOMSTOCK, Totalitarian Art in the Soviet Union, the Third Reich, Fascist Italy, and
the Peoples Republic of China, Collins Harvill, London, 1990.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Art and Politics in (Post)communism

605

Filmic discourses are also important in postcommunism as Andrei Poams article


about the well-known film directed by Emir Kusturica, Underground (1995) reminds
us. Memory and the reconstruction of meanings are present as well in this Balkan
fantastic ride. As Poam shows, Underground has a polyvalent meaning criticizing
propaganda and the ubuesque power as a synonym of the grotesque which keeps
people captive in the underground. The space created by the filmic discourse is, in
the authors opinion, a total common space which is a homogenous, transparent
space where the new man was born and upon which the dictator exerts his power.
Moreover, Florentina Andreescu analyzes in her essay the alteration of the image of
the woman in Romanian film before and after the revolution of 1989. The image of the
woman that has to sacrifice itself is the focus of Andreescus article but her analysis
further takes on the issue of the social trauma provoked by the drastic change of 1989
and its evocation through film.
Finally, the analysis of how the meaning of political art is transformed with the
change of regime is the topic of Alina Asaveis article. Asavei denies the political
value of politicized art or official art as it was put forward by the communist regimes
in Eastern Europe which labeled Socialist Realist art as eminently political. The author
considers that on the contrary, only art that subverts or contradicts the status-quo is
truly political. Thus, unofficial artworks manifested their politics through various
strategies of opposition: from the overtly anti-communist critique to the ways in
which they indirectly opposed the official canon of art production, interpretation and
distribution.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

606

SIMON PAUL BELL

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

607

Laibach and the NSK

ARTICULI

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

608

SIMON PAUL BELL

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

609

Laibach and the NSK

Laibach and the NSK

Ludic Paradigms of Postcommunism


SIMON PAUL BELL
The subject of this article is an exploration of the work of the NSK (Neue
Slowenische Kunst) and in particular the music group Laibach. By analysis of the
artistic interventions and provocations of this Slovene performance-art collective,
this article interrogates how Laibach and the NSK articulate the unfinished narrative
of communism in Eastern Europe, and the legacy of Yugoslavian Self-management
Socialism. Other diverse discourses such as ideology, Suprematism, Balkanisation and
the wider notion of European identity, in particular a perceived Western chauvinism,
are all fertile ground for Laibachs provocations and are here subject to analysis.
Laibach are the most influential delivery system of the NSK. Emerging in the wake
of Titos death and shaped by the breakup of Yugoslavia, the NSK are a performanceart collective founded in 1984 in Ljubljana, northern Slovenia. The three founding
groups of the NSK are Irwin (art), Noordung (theatre), and Laibach (music). Over
the years the NSK has grown and developed further offshoot groups, but all function
within the NSK Organigram.
Laibach remain Slovenias most successful cultural export, yet their history in their
native country problematizes this relationship. As the leading expert on Laibach in the
West and NSK collaborator Dr. Alexei Alexei Monroe has pointed out, even if Laibachs
opponents approved of their devotion to the transmission of Slovene language and
culture, its dissemination by a group found too disturbing to refer to by name was
unacceptable1. Laibachs work is a necessarily violent sonic encoding of certain
ambivalent archetypes constituting Slovene identity. It is a mission Laibach and the
NSK approach as a duty, unapologetically claiming a central place within the Slovenian
national space. Monroe suggests the phrase Oblast Je pri nas Ljudska (Our authority
is the authority of the people) from the recording Drava (State, 1985) is Laibachs
declaration of its right to manipulate national symbols2. Yet Laibach and the NSK
simultaneously embrace and maintain distance from Slovenian identification, treating
Slovenia and its cultural signifiers as Duchampian ready-mades, thus alienating many
of their fellow Slovenians. For example, samples of Tito speeches occur throughout
Laibachs recordings; the track Panorama is attributed jointly to Josip Broz TITOLAIBACH 1958-1985 (Panorama 1985), and the diagram of the NSKs organisation,
the spectral Organigram, bears a resemblance to those in Yugoslav textbooks, whose aim
is to explain the countrys Kafkaesque system of socialist self-management.
For centuries Slovenia had been subsumed into the Austrian empire, then part of
the Kingdom of Yugoslavia from 1918 to 1941. In 1941 Slovenia was occupied by Italy,
Germany and Hungary, and in 1945 became a federal republic of Socialist Yugoslavia
until its independence in 1991. Considered a political and cultural European nexus,
1

Alexei MONROE, Interrogation Machine, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2008, p. 151.


IDEM, Culture Instead of a State, Culture as a State: Art, Regime and Transcendence in the
Works of Laibach and Neue Slowenische Kunst, PhD., University of Kent, 2000, p. 174.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

610

SIMON PAUL BELL

Slovenias history has been one of threats of assimilation and self-assimilation,


either by Slovenians refuting a Slav identity or neighbouring nations claiming that
Slovenians were a lost variant of their own national norm1. Between 1927 and 1945 Italy
and Hungary instigated aggressive assimilatory campaigns, with the Magyarisation
and Italianisation of place and family names, even of headstones2. These threats to
Slovenian national identity from without and within only lend greater resonance to
Laibach and the NSKs manipulation of the signifiers of Slovene national identity,
an identity built almost exclusively on the Slovenian language and culture. With no
prominent military leaders, streets in towns or villages were named after writers,
painters, scientists, and a few statesmen. Thus a leading Slovene intellectual, Josip
Vidmar, was to suggest in 1932 that this small nation could excel not in economy or
politics, but in culture and art3.
As part of Titos split with Stalin in 1948 and a policy of non-alignment, Yugoslavia
escaped the more excessive strictures of Stalinism. After the failure of collective farming
in the immediate post-war years, Edvard Kardelj, Titos ideologist introduced Selfmanagement Socialism, described by Ale Erjavec as incompetent populism and
impossible bureaucracy4. It was however in the non-alignment policy that a more
tolerant attitude was reflected in the arts, particularly in the flowering of a Slovenian
subculture in the 1980s. It was in this climate of transition following Slovenias
postcommunist independence that the Slovene dissident, collectivist performance/
media groups such as the NSK now found themselves in; what Johannes Birringer
calls post-alternative or post-utopian art5.
Slovenia has a population of two million, its capital Ljubljana only 300 000, and
poetry is the privileged national genre, hence the surviving stereotype of Slovenia as
a nation of poets6. Slovenia is small enough that every cultural or political event
has a visible effect, and pre-independence art and culture were partial surrogates for
a national state that did not yet exist. Laibach and the NSK thus already operated in
conditions insistent on the primacy of culture, and not only brought Slovenia greater
international attention but did it on their own terms; a deliberate counter-attack to the
established cultural monopoly of the West.
From the outset Laibach and the NSK were controversial, their early period
defined by a series of interventions offensive to mainstream Yugoslav culture and
political bodies. The name Laibach itself was a national scandal in Slovenia, and
has been termed the groups ideological original sin7, first appearing on posters
in their home town of Trbovlje in September 1980, an act leading to them being
unable to use their name in their native country until 1984. First used in 1144 as the

1
For example, Pan-Germanists believed Slovenes to be a lost Germanic Volk known as
the Windisch.
2
Alexei MONROE, Culture Insteadcit, p. 28.
3
Ale ERJAVEC, Neue Slowenische Kunst New Slovenian Art, in Postmodernism and
the Post-socialist Condition, University of California Press, London, 2003, p. 135.
4
Ibidem, p. 141.
5
Johannes BIRRINGER, Performance on the Edge: Transformations of Culture, Continuum,
London, 2000, p.109.
6
Matev KOS, The Anxiety of Freedom: Contemporary Slovenian Literature and the
Globalising/Postmodern World, in Christian MORARU (ed.) Post-communism, Postmodernism,
and the Global Imagination, Columbia University Press, New York, 2009, p. 200.
7
Alexei MONROE, Interrogation Machinecit, p. 158.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Laibach and the NSK

611

original Hapsburg name for the capital Ljubljana, Laibach acquired its more negative
connotations when it was used by Nazi occupiers. By resurrecting this forbidden
name Laibach articulate an unspoken and uncomfortable truth concerning Slovenias
historical German connections and aspirations. This founding act of controversy
was further substantiated by an onslaught of ideological and aesthetic provocations.
In June 1983 Laibach achieved overnight national notoriety when they appeared
on Yugoslavian state television in apparent totalitarian dress reading answers to
pre-scripted questions comprising a series of cryptic formulations operating as a
direct provocation to the state. The presenter, Jure Pengov ended the interview by
denouncing Laibach as enemies of the people and calling for them to be banned. Early
Laibach concerts were also overt provocations; as Alexei Monroe describes, they were
nightmarish and utterly extreme combinations of alienation, infernal noise, and
brutal visual imagery1. At the Zagreb Biennale in 1983, the concert was interrupted
by the police, and Laibach expelled after projecting images of Tito montaged with
pornography. Their dress was equally incendiary; an austere non-specific totalitarian
coding suggesting both Italian fascist and Nazi uniform, yet with essential signifiers
such as the fasces or the swastika replaced with Malevichs Suprematist cross.
Challenged on this overt totalitarian dress, Laibach responded: Laibach mainly uses
the means of manipulative abilities of propagandistic nature and repressively exploits
the power of information2. Already, for those prepared to decode the faade, Laibach
were laying down their manifesto of wilful ambiguity.
The popular press and veteran Yugoslav partisan groups were the most vocal in
denouncing Laibach; a reciprocal arrangement fuelling much of Laibachs dynamic.
By fusing references to Yugoslavian self-management Socialism, partisan imagery,
and audio recordings of Tito with fascist Vlkish imagery and German translation,
veteran partisan groups and popularly conceived Slovenian national identity were
guaranteed offence. Laibach recordings such as Jezero (the name of a Slovenian
lake) and Vojna Poema (War Poem) for example are perversions of iconic Yugoslav
partisan anthems.
Perhaps less planned but equally fortuitous in establishing Laibachs scandalous
reputation was the Day of Youth poster affair. Dan Mladosti, or Day of Youth was
up until 1987 an annual Yugoslavian state ritual in the best socialist-realist mass-asornament tradition, whereby young Yugoslavs gathered to celebrate Titos birthday.
The design department of the NSK, Neu Kollectivism, adapted a Richard Klein Nazi
propaganda poster to advertise the event, replacing the Swastika flag with the Yugoslav
flag and the German eagle with a dove, a strategy only noticed by accident long after
the poster had been used to advertise the celebration. By having their poster design
accepted by the Yugoslav authorities as representing the spirit of this state jamboree
the NSK had exposed telling similarities between the Yugoslav Socialist regime and
fascism, its apparent ideological adversary3.
Motifs are cross-referenced throughout the NSK structure, lending a unified
cohesion to the work across the disciplines. These Ur-motifs, such as antlers and stags,

Alexei MONROE, Interrogation Machinecit, p. 180.


Wiktor SKOK, XY Unsolved, in Naomi HENNING, Wiktor SKOK (eds.) Ausstellung
Laibach Kunst: Recapitulation, Muzeum Sztuki, Ldz, 2009, p. 34.
3
For a comparison between the two posters see: http://paragonanubis.files.wordpress.
com/2008/03/statue-1.jpg.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

612

SIMON PAUL BELL

the worker, the Zahnrad (cog), and the Kozolec (a distinctive Slovenian hayrack)
are the nodal points to the NSK phantasm. The three most recurrent symbols are
the sower, the stag, and the Malevich cross. The symbol of the Sower, as derived
from Millets Sower (1850) and Slovenias own Ivan Grohars Sower (1907) occurs in
Irwin paintings and decorates Laibach album sleeves and posters. The NSK find in
the sower a recognisable theme in the memory of European culture, the emblem of
sowing and harvesting, sacrificing and giving, the soil and man, fertile matter and
mortal beauty and power1. Despite there being no wild stags in Slovenia, Laibach
have appropriated the stag as motif; the sleeve to Neu Konservatiw and Nova Akropola
both incorporate an image of the stag. In Vade Retro Satanas (Get back Satan)
the sound of a rutting stag is sampled, and on their early tours antlers occupied a
prominent place on stage. It is however Malevichs Cross (1912-1923) which Laibach
have embraced to the point where it becomes ubiquitous, and by analogy replaces the
swastika in the Laibach construct2. In the words of the NSK:
For us, members of a small nation, the cross simultaneously takes on a
different, fateful meaning. Our culture nails us into the centre of the cross, into
a crossing point of mad ambitions of the East and West. It is an empty space,
geometrically defined but its significance has never been fully clarified. It is in
here that we materialise our own ideas3.

Within this specific vocabulary of symbol and myth operate the two dominant
systems of Laibach and NSK praxis: Retrogardism and Over-identification.
Retrogardism, re-contextualized by Marina Grini as the new ism from the East,
and initially termed the monumental retro-avant-garde or the retro-principle, is
essentially a process of montage. Yet rather than attempting to directly effect avantgarde, revolutionary transformations, Retrogardism combines avant-garde and pop
elements with Nazi-Kunst, socialist realism with conceptualism, modernism with
folk art, Slovene impressionism, and other diverse elements4.
Imagery such as the motifs mentioned above, in being associated with the
discredited grand utopian narrative, have no exchange value in late-capitalism, and
are thus free-floating signifiers for Laibach to re-anchor, or re-mythologise. Laibach
restore this outmoded iconography to the resonance of Malevichs Suprematist pure
object. However, in this restorative action Laibach maintain a separation from their
inflammatory iconography by a process of dissonance and repetition. Combining
Nazi-Kunst and Socialist-realism effectively disempowers active ideological content,
and their repetition of the imagery in various contexts introduces a surplus, excessive
element that helps frustrate categorization and which is the responsibility of the
spectator and not the artist to interpret5.

1
The NSK operate as a collective, and authorship is listed as NSK. N.S.K., Neue
Slowenische Kunst, Marjan Goboli (trans.), Amok Books, Los Angeles, 1991, p. 140.
2
For an image of Malevichs Cross (1923) see: http://www.dmoma.org/lobby/exhibitions/
blockheads/images/malevich_black_cross.jpeg.
3
N.S.K., Neue Slowenische Kunstcit, p. 142.
4
Alexei MONROE, Interrogation Machinecit, p. 50.
5
IDEM, Culture Insteadcit., p. 11.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Laibach and the NSK

613

Although this emphatic eclecticism (a term Irwin use to define their system
of aesthetics) bears much resemblance to postmodern practice, the semblance is
superficial. In a relatively rare statement of clarity, Laibach distance themselves from
the playful pastiche of cynical Western postmodernism, and emphatically deny claims
that they are merely playing with the past in reviving the historical avant-garde:
Our image is not a surface, a facade or a glittering reflection of the idea that
irritates so many. We design and carry the time and we are what we are, from
head to toe1.

Lev Kreft in his contribution to the Ausstellung Laibach Kunst: Recapitulation 2009
exhibition catalogue notes that Laibach and the NSK manifest the trappings of the
avant-garde; the symbols, the shock tactics, manifestos and attitude, coupled with an
apparent postmodern approach to historicity, but differ from Western postmodernism
in that they restore arts problematic dalliance with totalitarianism and hegemonic
power structures2. Much of Western postmodernist art is playful and de-politicised, or
focused on individual and localised politics. However, there is nothing playful about
Laibach and the NSKs practice, which has none of the unfinished trait common
to much postmodern art. Laibach operates in mono-statements3 and an aesthetic
necessarily monumental, closed and fixed.
That Laibach are often accused of postmodernism, primarily by journalists and
cultural theorists in the West indicates a fundamental difference in how Laibach are
perceived in the East and the West. In the latter, terms such as Flirting with fascism,
tongue-in-cheek and Wagnerian are employed unsparingly in reviews and critical
analysis, claiming an irony and humour to Laibach found nowhere in their music or
press releases. This is an express attempt to render comfortable the provocation of an
incongruously overt Grand Utopian Narrative form that is apparently without irony
or pastiche. Laibachs Retrogarde actions are not parody or pastiche, but reflect an
unresolved European narrative; a raw traumatic historical.
Laibachs other prime system, that of Over-identification is linked by subject
matter to its Retrogarde actions. Restoring what is now considered Vlkish kitsch to
its original mythic resonance, an action otherwise referred to by Laibach and the NSK
as re-mythologisation or re-capitulation, necessarily entails ideological ambiguity.
For much early Laibach critical analysis, and their audience, this unsettling ambiguity

1
N.S.K., Excerpts from interviews given between 1980-1985, Available at: http://www.laibach.
nsk.si/l31.htm (accessed 11.11.2010).
2
Lev KREFT, Avant-garde, Retro-garde and Progress, in Naomi HENNING, Wiktor
SKOK (eds.) Ausstellung Laibach Kunstcit., p. 74
3
The Laibach/NSK mono-statement is composed of two parts: its archaic context and
its unequivocal certainty. Most of Laibach and the NSKs text is couched in the heightened
declarative vocabulary of the grand utopian narrative. The absolutism of the mono-statement
carries the commanding certainty of the propaganda poster, yet typical of Laibach and the
NSK, although the manner is one of definite statement, the very certainty of the tone creates as
its binary an equivalent confusion in the audience. Statements such as Our freedom is the freedom
of those who think alike, generate conviction and confusion in equal measure. The Laibach/NSK
mono-statement is also usually delivered in third-person. Laibach/NSK as an entity exists
separately from its creators, which lends these statements an air of providence, as if emanating
from a force beyond the control or understanding of its authors.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

614

SIMON PAUL BELL

became the focus for any review or discussion. The uneasy feeling experienced by
many supporters of Laibach during their most provocative phase is based on the
assumption that ironic distance is automatically a subversive attitude, and the strategy
of over-identification brings to light this false consciousness. iek asks what if the
dominant attitude of the contemporary post-ideological universe is active cynical
distance toward public values; what if this distance designates the supreme form of
conformism, since the normal function of the system requires cynical distance1? It is
the function of over-identification to confront this structure with a surplus authenticity
of conviction.
Yet despite the ardency of their message, attempts to cohere Laibachs
iconography into an ideological field are confounded. Walter Strauss lays out three
components at the core of the fascist aesthetic ideology; (i) belief/mystique: a chosen
destiny of nation of race, expressed for instance in the notion of the Aryan, or Volk, (ii)
Cult of leadership, and (iii) Glorification of heroism or sacrifice2. All these nodes are
missing from the Laibach mythic construct: Our work is pure because our symbols
are pregnant without any meaning3. Neither do Laibach articulate other vital
founding nodes of true totalitarianism. For example, teleology in totalitarianism
and Laibach are very different; both Stalinism and Nazism serve a big other of
history, their actions are accountable to an end-time, whereas Laibach claim they are
time, and thus they are the big other. Similarly, there is no cult-of-leader in the
Laibach spectacle, constructed as it is around the collective, where individual artists
are not credited. The leader personality or nexus is perhaps found in Laibachs
vocal element, which is predominantly authoritarian, but this emphatic impossible
authority has no primal father-figure; the voice free-floats. Also absent is a utopian
drive; contrary to universal totalitarian practice, Laibach posit no answers in the form
of a projected Utopia. Concomitant with such, and perhaps most tellingly absent,
is any enemy, or other. As Susan Buck-Morss writes in Dreamworld and Catastrophe:
To define the enemy is, simultaneously, to define the collective4. Alexei Monroe
has also written on the hollowness of Laibachs supposed totalitarian or fascist ethic,
comparing Laibach and the NSK with Orwells 1984:
Nowhere in the NSKs work is there any equivalent to Oceanias
demonization of the sexual or the orchestration of hatred. There is terror and
fear in Laibachs spectacle but no enemy is shown or named and there is no
equivalent to the daily hate sessions of 19845.

It can be said Laibach and the NSK are the most famous exponents of the strategies
of Retrogardism and Over-identification, and both tactics directly arise from Eastern
Europes totalitarian past. This combined strategy of opposition centres Laibach and

Slavoj IEK, Why are Laibach and the NSK not Fascists, in Laura HOPTMAN, Toma
POSPISYL (eds.) Primary Documents: A Sourcebook for Eastern and Central European Art since the
1950s, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2002, p. 64.
2
Walter STRAUSS, Gottfried Benn: A Double Life in Inhabitable Regions, in Richard
GOLSAN (ed.) Fascism, Aesthetics and Culture, University Press of New England, Hanover N.H.,
1992, p. 67.
3
N.S.K., Neue Slowenische Kunstcit, p. 98.
4
Susan BUCK-MORSS, Dreamworld and Catastrophe, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2000, p. 8.
5
Alexei MONROE, Culture Insteadcit, p. 44.
1

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Laibach and the NSK

615

the NSK as an illustrative nexus between Eastern Europe and the West. A predominant
Western chauvinism depicts Eastern Europe as a feudal wilderness locked in barbaric
totalitarian drudgery, Slavic hordes in desperate need of liberation, democracy, and
capitalist aspirations. This perception of the West as free-market liberators bringing
goods to the passive consumers of Eastern Europe fuels the notion of Eastern
Europeans lacking the discrimination to judge good from bad in popular culture, and
therefore incapable of producing pop forms that can compete globally1. Laibachs
challenge to this misconception is necessarily militant, and drives the selection of
their recording material and adaptation of musical genre. As Ale Erjavec, author
of Postmodernism and the Post-socialist Condition writes, the position of artists such as
Laibach and the NSK is complex, for they deconstruct not only post-socialist culture
and history, but also the wish of the Western art system to see and identify the artist
in such a culture as an asymmetrical and exotic Other2. Laibach at once deny and reaffirm this prejudice, by exploiting the need of Western culture and its art institutions
to see the post-socialist artist as a caricature or degeneration of Socialist Realism and
socialist culture. Zdenka Badovinac in her article on Eastern European performance
art, Body and the East, writes that:
Just as Western art has mainly presented itself to the relatively isolated East
as reproduced in magazines and books, so the East has been presented in the West
with a small quantity of poor-quality documents, with white spots in retrospectives
of European art, and with the myths of official art and the suffering dissidents3.

In this dialogue, the West is dominant, with the power to create new trends
and dictate the boundaries of the visible. Badovinac claims the only way Eastern
art can remain viable in this representative economy is therefore by an expressed
ideology. Laibach and the NSK operate autonomously from this system of Western
preconceptions and yet simultaneously over-identify with this ideological surplus that
art from the East must have. For instance, working with the Wests preconceptions
and ignorance of the Balkans and Slovenia, Laibach told Western journalists that their
uniforms were based on those of Slovene partisans. In reality Slovenian partisans
combined British, soviet and other fatigues with the O.F.4 partisan insignia5.
Laibach parody themselves as a primitive Balkan ritual for the West. In the video
for Sympathy for the Devil (1988) Laibach take this to an absurd degree. The band are
seen as feudal overlords in some Balkan castle presiding over a semi-barbaric feast:
The luxuriousness of the feast confirms and denies Western stereotypes
of impoverished, oppressed East Europeans who can access only pre-modern
forms of enjoyment6.

Ibidem, p. 280.
Ale ERJAVEC, Postmodernism and the Post-socialist Condition, University of California
Press, London, 2003, p. 96.
3
Zdenka BADOVINAC, Body and the East: From the 1960s to the Present, MIT Press, London,
1999, p. 55.
4
O.F.: an abbreviation of Osvobodilina Fronta, which translates as Liberation Front. The
O.F. were the Slovene communist-led partisan resistance of World War II.
5
Alexei MONROE, Interrogation Machinecit, p. 166.
6
Ibidem, p. 235
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

616

SIMON PAUL BELL

Later footage is shot among straw-strewn ruined buildings; for the casual
Western viewer this may indeed be typical Slovene habitation. As an extension of
these prejudices, Bulgarian author Elka Tschernokoshewa has discussed a tendency of
Western media to ascribe to everyday Eastern European life an apocalyptic quality. In
this respect Laibach reflect the West back upon itself. By extension, in this formulation
if the analyst takes the form of the big other, then Laibach are the analyst to the Wests
analysand. In their strategy of impossible authority, and their emphatic Lacanian
quilting nodes of the monumental state, Laibach thus function as the analyst to the
West, who imagines that within the Laibach enigma, or Lacanian Che Vuoi, the truth
of its desires will be answered.
Laibachs function as an illustrative nexus between Eastern Europe and the West
is perhaps best demonstrated in an analysis of their appeal. On the whole Laibachs
albums differ enormously in genre with each fresh release. For example the light digital
techno of Kapital (1992) was followed by the guitar-heavy rock of Jesus Christ Superstars
(1996). Laibach are at risk of alienating their fan-base with these sudden swings in
genre, yet Laibach fans remain loyal. If, as Io Vidmar suggests in the sleeve notes
to M.B.21. DECEMBER 1984 (1984) the music is incidental to Laibach, what then is
their core appeal? Laibach resonate in the post-histoire West as heralding from a
space where history is still alive, still happening, even if post-totalitarian. Boris Groys
speaks of a Western malaise, where historical facts are losing their special immanent
character and their role in the context of time, being transformed into everyday
conscious experience1. Similarly, Roger Conover in Against Dictionaries: the East as she
is Spoken by the West sees in Western art gallery curators a search for place and desire:
Desperately searching for the next real thing curators need to keep
extracting juice from the world to justify their existence. The easiest place to look
for that juice, that meaning, if your own world is empty, is in the places where
reality still exists, authentic, local, real places that globalisation has not yet denatured, where not every shop window has been designed like an installation2.

iek finds in the West an equal appetite for consuming the East in two films
made in Yugoslavia during the Balkan war: Underground (Emir Kusturica 1995) and
Before the rain (Mile Manevski 1994).
To the Western liberal view, both films offer precisely what this view would
like to see in the Balkan conflict a spectacle of timeless, incomprehensible,
mythical circuit of passion, in contrast with the decadent and anaemic Western
life.3

Alexei Monroe in the sleeve notes to Laibachs Anthems (2004) echoes this
theory:

1
Boris GROYS, The Irwin Group: More Total than Totalitarianism, in Laura HOPTMAN,
Toma POSPISYL (eds.) Primary Documents: A Sourcebook for Eastern and Central European Art
Since the 1950s, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2002, p. 288.
2
Roger CONOVER, Against Dictionaries: The East as she is Spoken by the West, in
IRWIN (ed.), East Art Map, Afterall, London, 2006, p. 357.
3
Slavoj IEK, Multiculturalism, or the Cultural Logic of Multinational Capitalism,
Razpol, glasilofreudovskega polja, no. 10, Problemi 5-6, 1997, p. xxxv.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Laibach and the NSK

617

For some, it seemed that nowhere in either half of Occupied Europe was
there a phenomenon quite as absolute or romantic as what Laibach seemed to offer
all actually existing ideological and cultural systems seemed compromised
and anaemic in comparison1.

It is not only Laibachs re-enactment and representation of the traumatic historical


that generates an allure, but a justified claim in actual involvement in history. For
the anaemic West, for whom the last significant political youth movement was
the hedonist rave culture of the early 1990s, Laibach exist in an exalted position of
direct involvement with its countrys politics and struggle for identity. Laibachs
recording and touring history covers tectonic shifts in their countrys development,
including a European war and Slovenias independence. In Laibach can be found,
as Igor Golomstock observes, A nostalgia for arts lost social role, for its purposeful
organisation, for its direct link with social and political life2.
Laibach define their audience thus:
The LAIBACH audience is any audience which accepts the extreme position
of contemporary (post)industrial production. Identification with our positions is
possible by means of the intellect or the intuition in a schizophrenic subject, who is, in
the process of degeneration, totally alienated from society (mobilization of unstable
individuals). The audience can add to our demonstration the everyday practice of
politicising, the desire for knowledge and the dimension of satisfaction3.

Hence the Laibach audience, in conceiving themselves outside or beyond the


mainstream, identify with the transgressive iconoclasm of Laibach and the NSK. The
ambiguity of this transgression however, has attracted elements across the political
spectrum. Nazi salutes have been seen at Laibach performances, whilst in 1994 a Laibach
performance in Hellerau, Germany was protected against local fascists by riot police4.
This transgressive space of moral suspension, in Althussers terms interpellates
the Laibach audience by representing an opportunity to experience the taboo and
transgressive, if only temporarily5. Laibach can be said to practice sympathetic
magic in resurrecting old fetishes and old gods; committing the taboo of returning to
life the ostensibly defunct European totalitarian ritual. Laibachs overt performance
of this ritual establishes the other of transgression, interpellating an audience wishing
to identify with exclusionary practices. As Eda ufer writes, although Western art
history has absorbed and validated historic avant-garde forms, Socialist-realism and
totalitarian art remains Other, as non-assimilatory as the Swastika6.
Operating within this transgressive space, comparison with Laibach can be drawn
with the ethnographic icon of the Trickster. The Trickster is beyond the allowed fool

From the sleeve notes to Anthems, 2004.


Igor GOLOMSTOCK, Totalitarian Art, Collins Harvill, London, 1990, p. x.
3
N.S.K., Neue Slowenische Kunstcit, p. 46.
4
Alexei MONROE, Interrogation Machinecit, p. 304.
5
Althussers theory of interpellation is that an ideology hails or interpellates the subject,
and this ideology, in interpellating the subject, validates the subject by affirming their subjectposition. (Louis ALTHUSSER, On Ideology, Verso, London, 2008, p. 48).
6
Eda E. UFER, Enjoy me, Abuse me, I am your Artist: Cultural Politics, their Monuments,
their Ruins, in IRWIN (ed.), East Artcit., p. 371.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

618

SIMON PAUL BELL

tolerated as a necessary disruptive element within the structure. The trickster figure
is neither self nor other, but a third and disruptive (external) unit in a dialectic. Agnes
Horvath in Mythology and the Trickster: Interpreting Communism equates the Eastern
European experience as the nulla, a space: where everything can happen without
meaning1. In maths the nulla is the numberless number, in Horvaths context; a
liminal space of myth, a fluid state of non-being and the dwelling place of the Trickster2.
If, as Sophie Nield suggests in her essay On the Border as Theatrical Space, continental
Europe is a liminal space of performative borders, a theatrical space wherein identity
is performed, then from this potential formlessness, this nulla arises the Trickster,
belonging neither to the realms of the gods, nor to the humans, as it does not participate
in their experiences, yet has a foot inside both worlds3. This is Laibach and the NSK in
the context of post-socialism, and in the context of Europe as liminal threshold.
In occupying the other space of the Trickster, Laibach perform an essentially exorcist
function, their demonic, militarist and negative performance plays with the spectral
elements that haunt the background of the prevailing political systems. The track
Vade Retro Satanas directly references this exorcist quality. It is not however through
a purging that Laibach exorcise, but through a gorging, Laibach are not an emetic but
a satiation. In this context Taras Kermauner describes them as psycho-hygienists,
in that they enact the magically-ritual, mystically bloody, sacrificially oppressing,
and sacredly disturbed4. The psycho-hygienic of Laibach is its very barbarism.
Kermauner cites Stravinsky, who protested against the labelling of the Germans as
barbaric; suggesting that true barbarism cannot be corrupt and disgusting. Kermauner
goes on to defend Laibachs psycho-hygienic qualities for exposing the jouissance in
transgression and in the subjects willingness to submit to the totalitarian ritual.
In 1988 Boris Groys challenged the art-worlds view of 20th century aesthetics that
arts oppositional role is a given:
That art is an activity that is independent of power and seeks to assert the
autonomy of the individual and the attendant virtues of individual freedom.
Historically however, art that is universally regarded as good has frequently
served to embellish and glorify power5.

This is the dynamic behind Laibach and the NSKs interventions, and is expressed
in point three of their manifesto 10 Items of the Covenant: All art is subject to political
manipulation, except for that which speaks the language of this same manipulation6.
Groys extends his point in declaring that the myth of the innocent avant-garde arises

1
Agnes HORVATH, Mythology and the Trickster: Interpreting Communism, in Alexander
WLL, Harald WYDRA (eds.), Democracy and Myth in Russia and Eastern Europe, Routledge,
Abingdon, 2008, p. 27.
2
Ibidem, p. 27.
3
Sophie NIELD, On the Border as Theatrical Space, in Nicholas RIDOUT, Joe KELLEHER,
Contemporary Theatres in Europe, Routledge, London, 2006, p. 63.
4
Taras KERMAUNER, Laibach Kunst a Structural Analysis. A Lethal or Playful
Challenge to Totalitarianism, in Naomi HENNING, Wiktor SKOK (eds.) Ausstellung Laibach
Kunstcit., p. 58.
5
Boris GROYS, The Total Art of Stalinism, Avant-garde, Aesthetic Dictatorship and Beyond,
Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1992, p. 7.
6
N.S.K., Neue Slowenische Kunstcit, p. 18.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Laibach and the NSK

619

from the misconception of European totalitarian art as being a return to the past,
a purely regressive reaction to a new art that was unintelligible to the masses1. In
directly restoring (re-capitulating) arts collaborative relationship with power in their
praxis, Laibach and the NSK problematize their own oppositional space. Art carries
with it its own modern predominant moral givens: it is left-wing, concerned with
individual freedom, it should not be elitist, it should have a social purpose, it justifies
society, it is a pillar of democracy, demonstrates freedom of expression, and in depicting
possible cultural futures constitutes cultural science fiction. In challenging all these
givens Laibach and the NSK operate with a vocabulary recognised by neither latecapitalism nor its opposition. If a public is a virtual entity created by being addressed,
Laibach and the NSK interpellate, but establish their own unique discourse to do so.
Laibach distance themselves from avant-garde, revolutionary or hedonistic-nihilistic
positions in relation to authority2. This is a central tenet of Laibach and the NSK; a
refusal to be part of the aforesaid vocabulary of oppositional trends. It has been a
continuous theme since the groups inception. The NSK
do not aim to gain acceptance by artistic or political establishments, which is a
radical stance, since so many discussions of postcommunist art have focused on
precisely on measuring the liberal spirit of the newly democratic states based on
their readiness to accept previously controversial artwork3.

Laibach and the NSKs vocabulary is that of totalitarian architecture, and such
monumentalism is designed to dwarf the individual to the point where he or she can
only be valid as part of the mass. Compare this to the micro-political vocabulary of
current aesthetic oppositional discourse, which, in tune with late-capitalism, focuses
on the individual and localised project politics.
For over thirty years the artists Laibach and the NSK have been operating outside
this late-capitalist matrix of information exchange4. Not only by positing void, an
absence of meaning at the heart of their structure, but by a process of wilful ambiguity
demanding a problematic subject position, whereby a safe critical distance from
Laibachs apparent complete re-enactment of the totalitarian ritual entails a failure to
fully engage with Laibachs discourse. This praxis has impacted on both a domestic
and international scale. Domestically, their history is interwoven with that of their
native Slovenias (both before and after independence) and internationally they
have projected a contentious interpretation of Slovene national identity by way of
challenging Western cultural monopoly. In their tactic of Over-identification can be
found an alternative strategy of resistance to the collusive cynicism of late-capitalism,
but it is their strategy of Retrogardism that is most salient as regards Eastern
Europe, the unfinished narrative of communism and the post-totalitarian age. In remythologizing the myths and iconography of 20th century European grand utopian
narratives, Laibach and the NSK demonstrate that far from being safely in the past,
the European traumatic historical remains an open wound.
1

Boris GROYS, The Total Art of Stalinismcit., p. 8.


Alexei MONROE, Interrogation Machinecit, p. 32.
3
Nataa KOVAEVI, Late Communist and Post-communist Avant-garde Aesthetics:
Interrogations of Community, in Christian MORARU (ed.) Post-communism, Postmodernismcit.,
p. 212.
4
Laibach were founded in 1980, the NSK in 1984.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

620

SIMON PAUL BELL

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

621

Warte Mal!

Warte Mal!

Construction and Consumption of Female


Subjectivity after the Velvet Revolution
AMY CHARLESWORTH
Ann-Sofi Sidns Warte Mal! Prostitution after the Velvet Revolution was exhibited
at the Hayward Gallery, London throughout the winter of 2002. The preface to the
exhibition catalogue asserts that in our age of growing technological advancement an
enforced and ever-increasing relationship to the human realities of global politics is
pushed increasingly from our grasp. The remedy offered is Sidns deployment of the
camera as a weapon to uncover truth, as opposed to keeping it hidden from view1.
Once more we are brought to the familiar crossroads of the two-fold capabilities of the
camera; as Harun Farocki neatly assessed, the camera aids and yet obfuscates vision.
Concerns remain, who decides if the image reveals or conceals and what discourses is
this bolstered within? Moreover, what can the artist do with the question of truth when
utilizing the documentary medium and its politics of representation when the image is
the mediator, the translation of knowledge to the populous of an increasingly fragmented
world? Sidns work presents questions that explore the interplay of collective and
individual subjectivities, not only of those filmed but of Sidn herself and the (largely)
expert art audiences in which the piece interacts; the relationship between art and
non-art; and lastly the notion of the victim-frame, its articulation, consumption and the
interplay of narrative experimentation in critically exploiting this.
The dizzying confluence of material in Warte Mal! consists of a thirteen-channel
DVD installation that recounts the artists interviews with sex-workers who either
line the notorious E55 highway, along the Czech Republic/German border, or work
in one of the many bordellos that have opened up in the former spa resort town of
Dubi. Sidn, in addition to the sex workers, interviews motel owners who charge
these women to use their rooms, pimps, the womens clients and police officials.
The research project, undertaken throughout 1999, also consists of photographs,
video and Sidns own written diary. These devices aid in an effort to understand
how large-scale ostensibly evasive political, economic and social processes become
actuated in a materialist sense. The re-ordering of lives in small towns and villages in
former Czechoslovakia after the Iron Curtain capitulated indicates, once again, a very
different construction and production of womens subjectivity across the western
world2. Here, Sidn, situates her research in Dubi, although all along the line that
demarcates the west from the east, the border delineates a space that is constituted
1
Susan FERLEGER BRADES, Warte Mal! Prostitution After the Velvet Revolution, Hayward
Gallery Publishing, London, 2002, p. 6.
2
Although reliable statistics are not available due to hidden and covert routes developed
by the women and the traffickers it is clear, as detailed by the Global Human Rights Education
fact sheet that: the trafficking has grown expediently in Central and Eastern Europe and the
former Soviet Union. See Wendy HESFORD, Global Sex Work and Video Advocacy: The
Geopolitics of Rhetorical Identification, in Ursula BIEMANN, Jan-Erik LUNDSTRM (eds.),

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

622

AMY CHARLESWORTH

by people, particularly young women, who have migrated from other former Eastern
Bloc countries. The geopolitics of this region is markedly determined by the living
labour of these women when their bodies must aggregate the point when two changed
nations, the former GDR and the Czech Republic, converge upon one another.
Formal devices and choices of display are a deeper sedimentation of the subject
or content matter itself1. The transitory and continual movement concomitant in our
comprehension of borderlands is married to, and intensified by, the long, linear shots
taken from the car window. The camera roves the streets and roads, bar windows,
electricity pylons and rows of photographs of missing girls, drawing horizontal threads
through the landscape enacting and suggesting a complication of our associated
experience of an otherwise time-based, vertically compiled narrative tale. Sidns
captivation with what is inadvertently implied as the spectacle of the girls in this locality
and her desire to understand their present is always undermined by the contingencies of
time2. The horror of the experiences told by the women enforces a perverse voyeurism
that can only be managed, accepted or tolerated by the haunting specter of temporality;
what the women are, and where they are, is fleeting, the clients too know their time is
limited. This has an ameliorative affect on the viewer, it becomes the only manner in
which we can watch, and which it seems the people that live and work in Dubi and its
surrounding area, can undertake the daily tasks and necessities of everyday life.
This is not to say that the world and its subjectivities are knowable through the
futile method of discovering a final and wholly definable truth but rather that reality
is construed through the process of mediation; that is construction, in this case by the
politics of the image. Warte Mal! allows us to think about how the difference between
the living and the artificial (the representation) is affirmed through narrative, which
produces a form that explicitly tells us that life cannot be shown but that it can be
told3. Afterall, a fact is something which is made in its telling and we must always be
vigilant to the fictive techniques inherent to its construction.

The Janus-Faced Politico-Aesthetic Tool


Robert Flacks brief mention of the documentary character of much of the video
work in Warte Mal! is pushed further still to the periphery by the branding of the
work as a video installation. This permeates Flacks essay, which puts emphasis on
a need to justify the work as a piece of art4. Fifteen years after Martha Rosler wrote
her now infamous essay: Video: Shedding the Utopian Moment, which noted
Mission Reports: Artistic Practice in the Field, Video Works 1998-2008, Bildmuseet, Ume University,
Sweden, 2008, pp. 128-142.
1
Theodor ADORNO, Aesthetic Theory, Continuum, London, 2004, pp. 5-7.
2
Phil HUBBARDs essay In the border-zone: Warte Mal! A Video Installation by AnnSofi Sidn, Cultural Geographies, vol. 10, no. 1, 2003, pp. 112-119, notes of the spectacle of
sex workers dotted along the roadside in all weathers, which over the last fifteen years has
attracted much media attention.
3
Boris GROYS, Art in the Age of Biopolitics: From Artwork to Art Documentation,
Documenta 11 catalogue, Ostfildern-Ruit, Hatje Cantz, 2002, pp. 108-114.
4
The Hayward Gallery organized a panel discussion on the 19th February 2002: The
Politics of Display: Warte Mal! Art History and Social Documentary to ascertain, notes their
website, this very point.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Warte Mal!

623

the manner in which museums and galleries tame video, ignoring, or removing
its inherent potential for implicit critique, we can still witness the problematics the
political produces for the aesthetic in the art institutional sphere1. As with all modern
movements, video art for Rosler has been required to define itself in relation to the
apparatuses of society. For Flack, Warte Mal! proves that video (installation) art has
finally come of age and secured a place in the history of sculpture. Only when video
can take up literal spatial concerns, can it compete with art proper. Rosler warned that
this all too Modernist obsession with the essentials of the medium would sever
the relationship the video camera has with broadcasting, disregarding the potential of
such technology to go beyond the sphere of the confines of the art institution.
The qualities of the moving-image may always present an antagonism for art
institutions. Whether it is still or moving, analogue or digital, the indexical to the
real and thus an interaction with the regimes of truth has meant that the same
medium can be utilized for distinctly alternate ends. At one end of the spectrum rests
the mass media, more often than not homogenized by the affiliation to government
demands. In contrast, if given the technical know-how of which there is a varied
and geographically diverse history the utopian element present in the medium
means it can be used in a revolutionary manner to provide, not only, the counterimages needed for the project of consciousness-raising but also become concomitant
to the broader politics of form debates2. A continual desire to set the medium of video
within the paths already established of the last century has resulted in neglecting to
see video within its own terms. This is not to say that we must limit our understanding
to its technological determinations but consider the historiography of its systems of
distributions, use and sponsorship, which arise from a diverse set of trajectories; its
technologies of vision and its procedures of truth are therefore necessary to understand
Warte Mal! as an engagement with the documentary tradition. In fact, we would do
well to remember and accept the ubiquity of the image particularly the advertising
image in late capitalist society. This is made only too visible in Sidns diary when
she writes of one young woman, Eva, and her penchant for keeping notebooks filled
with logos for Nike, Adidas and Coca-Cola, all [of] her favorite brands3. For Groys,
the postcommunist situation, as we witness played out in this particular narrative
sequence, makes all the more visible the artificiality of capitalism, positioning the
spotlight on it as a resolutely political project of social restructuring as opposed
to the natural economical development it purports to be4. The brief observation of
Evas diary pays heed to the biopolitical nature of contemporary capitalism. Modern
corporations like Nike, for instance, through the power of the brand articulated by
the logo, indicate the role of immaterial labour prior to material. For it is with the
capture of the cooperation between peoples cognitive abilities that the logo and its
associations begin to take shape5.
1

Martha ROSLER, Video: Shedding the Utopian Moment, BLOCK, issue 11, 1985/6.
I would like to draw the readers attention to groups like Medvedkin group (of which
French film-essayist Chris Marker was influential in providing training), Willi Munzenbergs
AIZ (The Workers Pictorial Newspaper) and the video co-ops in the U.S throughout the
1960s/70s for documenting grass-root struggles such as: Videofreex; Peoples Video Theatre;
and Raindance Corporation
3
Ann-Sofi Sidns diary, Motel Hubert, Dubi, the Czech Republic 02.99-10/99.
4
Boris GROYS, Art Power, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass, 2008, p. 166.
5
Alberto TOSCANO, Vital Strategies: Maurizio Lazzarato and the Metaphysics of
Contemporary Capitalism, Theory, Culture & Society, vol. 24, no. 6, pp. 71-91.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

624

AMY CHARLESWORTH

If the language and technical imperatives of the video camera allows Sidn to
get close to the people she films, the question of power relations must be considered
as they saturate the very apparatus she adopts. The interview framework in much
orthodox documentary work replicates that of testimonial confession. Interviewer
and interviewee in Warte Mal! appear to endeavor to transgress the presence of the
camera by the very notion of the months of research and time Sidn and her translators
spent living alongside those who form the basis of the work. It is clear though that no
amount of intimacy can produce a purely candid view into the lives and experiences
of those caught on film because the issue that should be markedly at the fore here is
a concern with construction and not implied direct or neutral recording. This may
appear to present problems for Roslers argument. If the work is overtly preoccupied
with formal innovation will it not lead us to narcissistic obsessions and a cinematic
language which is only able to speak to those with an already privileged and
established sense of aesthetic play in which one is able to recognize the transgressions
of set codes? To turn to Brecht, his devices employed in an effort to understand for
whom the artwork was for, under what set of circumstances and by whom was it
actuated, lead to something that was not constructed to reflect and represent the
existing dominant regimes of truth. In asking these questions one is able to break open
static assumptions in a dynamic, experimental way which required the audience to be
actively engaged in order for these transgressions and their transformative effects to
take place. This lacuna in the narrative led to a desire to undo illusionary effect and
its associated passivity. The Brechtian turn in much political film-making of the late
1960s and 70s in Britain and Western Europe which sought to understand the effects
of the intersection of race, gender, sex and class on subjectivity at a certain moment
displayed and experimented with devices developed to dispel the illusionary effects
seemingly inherent in the medium of film-making and the camera1.
Crucially Brecht was not an advocate of formal experimentation for
experimentations sake, his sardonic statements on the place of the avant-garde
indicates his criticality for something he still considered to be of great significance:
For a vanguard can lead the way along a retreat or into an abyss. It can march so
far ahead that the main army cannot follow, because it is lost from sight2. Sidns
chosen medium reminds us to consider that rather than lambasting the TV and video
medium as the always assumed partner of corporate owned, government led agendas
(ever-increasingly driven by market forces through privatization) the familiarity of
its vernacular enforces us to see the power it holds for speaking to the common.
For if we are able to maintain that where there is power there is always resistance
(in a Foucauldian sense) then the multiplicities and criticalities within a medium
begin to open up becoming ripe for a process of deconstruction and re-articulation
with lapidary force. If we define our discussion of the medium of the video and TV
monitors through the language of an already well established and canonical set of
terms and concepts we neglect the fruitful conjunction that it has (and will most likely
always exist) with broadcasting and the media. Extensive knowledge of the public
sphere when making work, particularly work about women and their representation,

1
For more detailed information on the key debates of this period see the British film journal
Screen and the French Cahiers du Cinma journal under the editorial team of Jean Comolli and
Jean Narboni.
2
Bertolt BRECHT, Against Georg Lukacs, Aesthetics and Politics, NLB, London, 1977, p. 72.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Warte Mal!

625

enables an artwork like Warte Mal! to be acutely mindful of its emergence from, and
production within, the social world. This is in opposition to due to a certain type of
formal analysis and politics of display it occupying a properly aesthetic sphere,
a sphere that although the art establishment fights to separate, is obsolete due to the
sheer ubiquitous presence and use of the image in everyday life.

Documentary Realism and its Politics of Truth


Despite Sidns Warte Mal! possessing a very obvious relationship with the
documentary genre, discussions focused solely on its installation negate any such
considerations of this coterminous rich history; a history very much born within the
art field yet perpetually denied any part of it1. An expanded notion of the documentary
is thus required rather than positioning it in the impasse of the mouthpiece of
activism, adopting the responsibility to be pedagogical in nature on one hand, and a
lambasting of a tendency to be unaware of its own didactic and moralizing hypocrisy
on the other. The genealogy of the documentary, as it has become to be understood, is
fractured and changeable in its meaning throughout the 20th century in the West. Warte
Mal! explicitly raises questions that circle realism and its affiliate, the documentary,
which as a genre (and by genre I refer to Frederic Jamesons notion of genre as a social
determined entity) has a tradition of supposing it can split true statements from false
ones2. The documentary image needs, therefore, to be understood as historical and
not ontological in its origins3. As the film scholar, Bill Nichols states: The established
story of documentarys beginnings continues to perpetuate a false division between
the avant-garde and documentary that obscures their necessary proximity4. A series
of large-scale events that directly re-structured the western world can be marked as
crucial in distinguishing how the format of the documentary became established
post-1940 and unchanged prior to the critique in the 1970s in Europe, which saw
the displacement of the state from its central position in documentary rhetoric. The
impact of socialist realism and the violent objection of the self-indulgent decadences
of the avant-garde; the rise of Nazi power and its co-option of the camera for Fascist
propaganda and subsequent attack on so-called degenerate art, and lastly the onset
of the Great Depression and deployment of the documentary medium increasingly
as both, a liberal tool in which to relieve the conscience of the middle classes, and
a device specifically for the exigencies of the New Deal program in the USA, meant
an increased and incrementally ingrained implementation of the camera as a tool for
government means5.
1
Olivier LUGON, Documentary: Authority & Ambiguities, The Green Room: Reconsidering the Documentary and Contemporary Art 1, Sternberg Press, CCS Bard, pp. 28-38.
2
Hito STEYERL, Documentarism as Politics of Truth, <www.repubicart.net/disc/representations/steyerl103_en.pdf>, (accessed on 19.03.2010).
3
John TAGG, The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories, Palgrave
Macmillan, Hampshire, 1988. Taggs work is steeped in a Foucauldian conception of truth
wherein which a particular relationship with truth is not a struggle for finding truth but rather
concerned with a struggle around the status of it.
4
Bill NICHOLS, Documentary Film and the Avant-Garde, Critical Enquiry, vol. 27,
no. 4, Summer 2001, p. 581.
5
Ibidem, pp. 580-610.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

626

AMY CHARLESWORTH

The contestation between Modernist fragmentation and the activist goals linked
to photographic realism, once so widely encouraged in the 1920s, provided a tension
treated with great distrust post-1930s. The deployment of both formal experimentation
and social oratory evident therefore in some European and Soviet film work has been
resultantly absent from the documentarys history. Instead a focus on allowing political
issues to take centre stage developed as the dominant mode for the documentary,
this very notion being a key exponent steeped in the ideals of Giersonian thought1.
Sidn herself is no stranger to the criticisms leveled at the candid cameras seemingly
inherent obsession for, and ability to capture, the real through indexicality. Her
1998 work Who Told the Chambermaid? manipulates precisely the ambiguity present in
attempting to pull apart fact and fiction (albeit in a less complex project). The work
presented a wall of television monitors which each displayed images of different hotel
rooms. The carefully edited CCTV footage played on the acceptance of said images as
true and the power of voyeurism in concluding this.
These discourses are redolent in Warte Mal!, where a decision to document life is
paramount. The shots throughout the work show an awareness that they are imbued
with cinematic conventions and codes that are potentially dangerous, dangerous
in the sense that they insinuate that meaning already resides in the film, creating a
passivity in the act of viewing, as opposed to highlighting that meaning is created
in the dialogue between the viewer and the filmmaker2. Despite this, this mode of
filmmaking is still vulnerable to operating in a binary rhetoric that is tempered to
practical day-to-day issues, in either agreement or disagreement, bound by finding
truths or untruths and staking a claim on those filmed. The paradox Sidn faces is in
her aim to document life, and the manner in which it then comes to be displayed as
a static art object. By selecting a nation state in the flux of transition from one socioeconomic and political system to another, Warte Mal! must be conversant of its role
in defining otherwise fluid subjectivities and presenting them as available for the
voracious consumption of the museum-going public3.

Biopolitics & Documentation: A Symbiosis?


In 1987 Raymond Bellour stated that the video image is best understood as a
practice of writing, this built on an earlier polemic, La Camera-Stylo, by Alexander
Astruc in 1948 wherein which he ascribed the capabilities of the camera with the same
qualities of the pen. In examining the process of narrative and the implication of a
story being told through multifarious techniques Warte Mal! pays heed to this history.
The use of narrative in film and video work has faced much criticism throughout the
1

Here I am referring to John Grierson, often considered to have spearheaded the formulation of the British documentary alongside Basil Wright. Their work came to have a substantial
significance on documentary discourse throughout Europe in the 1930s.
2
Annette KUHN, Womens Pictures: Feminism and Cinema, Verso, London, 1994, p. 127.
3
Renzo Martens work Episode III Enjoy Poverty (2009) exploits many of the tropes of
political art and the documentary project to expose the hypocrisy seemingly always lurking
as the undertone in much of this contemporary work. He positions the viewer, as consumer of
these images, as complicit in the business of recreating and owning the poverty and misery
represented by the images. Interesting comparisons can be made between Episode III Enjoy
Poverty and Luis Bunuels 1932 Las Hurdes: Tierra sin pan.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Warte Mal!

627

20th century. Particular devices sought to carve up the chimera of the reality effect,
which the image and text, especially in mainstream cinema and advertising, strived
to portray through a non-contradictory hermetically sealed account of events1. Hence
the omnipresence of the one defining image, immortalized in print, perpetually
un-earthed to provide account for the story. Sidns use of space in her installation
suggests, not only the multitudinous narratives that make up the work, but also
explores the physical geography of Dubi2. The requirement for one to move through
and around the space compels an awareness of ones own body in said space, this
attempts to mimic and enhance the necessary complex formations of the stories told.
The desire and need to document life as it is lived in Warte Mal! correlates with
a specific conjucture from the late 1980s to the early 2000s which witnessed the
beginnings of the mainstreaming of the biopolitical conceptual framework into the
contemporary art sphere. Groys Art Power, puts forth the argument that we now
live in a biopolitical age that has effected, in a tangible manner, the way in which we
now position value and interest on art documentation as opposed to clearly defined
artwork3. Art documentation, he writes, is the most appropriate (and moreover only
way) in which to discuss specific artistic activity that might consist of:
complex and varied artistic interventions in daily life, lengthy and complicated
processes of discussion and analysis, the creation of unusual living circumstances,
artistic exploration into the reception of art in various cultures and milieus, and
politically motivated artistic actions4.

The act of documenting art over presenting it, translates, for Groys, as thus
identical to life because art has now, like life, become about continual activity which
of course has no end result, no form or object in which it can become a final static
product. The varied and diverse strategies of documentation are able to let the eye
jump between and acknowledge incontestably the symbiotic relationality between the
image and text, introducing considerations of space and sound. This enables a switch
from the usual assumption, wherein which art becomes a life form and artwork
becomes non-art. This mode of art, for Groys, is symptomatic of the biopolitical
age in which we now live. An age, which he states, is characterized by life becoming
increasingly the object of technical and artistic intervention5. If bureaucratic and
technological modes are the dominant means for administrating and knowing life
through documentation (stats, planning, reports et cetera in the invention of the
standards of the norm to be historically ascertained) it is no coincidence that art

1
See Claire JOHNSTON, Paul WILLEMAN, Brecht in Britain: The Independent Political
Film (on The Nightcleaners), Screen, vol. 16, no. 4, winter 1975-76, p. 107, which provides insight
to how social commentary became, once again, closely linked to innovative techniques in
filmmaking.
2
See Phil HUBBARDs essay In the Border Zone: Warte Mal! A Video Installation by AnnSofi Sidn, Cultural Geographies in Practice, vol. 10, no. 1, 2003, pp. 112-119, for an exploration
into the ethno-mimetic spatial dimensions of the work when installed at The Hayward gallery
which, for him, enforces a dialectical interplay between performance and documentary.
3
Boris GROYS, Art in the Age of Biopolitics: From Artwork to Art Documentation,
Art Power, MIT Press, Cambridge Massachusetts, 2008, pp. 53-65.
4
IDEM, Art Power, cit., p. 54.
5
Ibidem.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

628

AMY CHARLESWORTH

has begun to deploy such strategies in order to attempt to know and make sense of
the world.
Groys consideration of the document as art, because it refers to life, which is
in opposition to the dominant conception of art that is conceived as art because it
is something which embodies art in itself, presents an interesting question for the
Sidns Warte Mal! The document and/or the documentary is conceived as a device
that positions its aims at situating the present in its history. In recent art discourse
the archival, and arguably, evidential document has become a privileged form of
communication. Historically, through its ethnographic mode, documentation has
become part of a methodology that can aid in the administration of life; it can take
stock, record, act as a means of intelligibility in which to understand the body of the
population. If one is to follow Groys trajectory, perhaps the intensification due to
the demands of a neo liberal social and political project of the biopolitical subject
and the technological innovation of the digital image has meant a shift in how one
now perceives the possibilities of documentary medium, hence the proliferation of its
deployment in contemporary art throughout the last several years1.
Groys perception of art documentation as art, however, does have a somewhat
utopian drive at the center of its thesis. The possibilities for making art concerned with
life, prioritizing documentation, shows multiple and continual deviations in form.
Benjamins The Author as Producer (1934) stated the importance of the author or
artist considering their commitment under a set of specific social conditions, by which
I mean to consider what attitude a work might, or should have, to the relations of
production in which it is made, provides us with a way to avoid using the concepts
of biopolitics in an un-critical manner. The implementation of this concept in Groys
work is at risk, at times, of conflating biopolitics to being anything that is concerned
with life, as opposed to specific moments, bound to the socio-economic fabric that
present new ways to cultivate life. This is due perhaps to the Giorgio Agamben
inflection present in Groys argument. Taken in its Foucauldian inception, one should
give attention to specific moments that present new ways to cultivate life. For Foucault
the focus lies at the historical process, the dynamic and mobile elements by which life
becomes the target of relations of power/knowledge.

Viewing and Consuming at the Border


The victim frame is sovereign in providing in-roads for possession of the subject,
the close-up of the face and the isolation of pain articulated on the expressions of
those filmed creates powerful affect in those watching. The power of the victimisation
narrative runs deep, with many legal and cultural representations relying heavily on
it for providing the grounds on which to incite awareness and action. In a practical
sense some trafficked and enslaved persons are only able to gain access to justice and
related services if they are able to prove their status precisely as victims through the

1
Documenta 11 (2002) and the research project led by Maria LIND & Hito STEYERL at
Bard College from 2008-2010, consolidated in a number of essays collected in the book The
Greenroom: Reconsidering the Documentary and Contemporary Art 1, CCS Bard: Sternberg Press,
2008, mark a decade of interest in a re-turn to the documentary.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Warte Mal!

629

confessional testimonial1. The interaction between word and image runs parallel at
this point; images wait to be confirmed, falsified and explained by the narrative or
captions that accompany the image, working in as much the same as the photograph2.
Exploitation of the danger that lies in this apparent natural relationship is made
palpable by Chris Markers Lettre dSiberie (1957), which explores how the same image
can be manipulated to very different ends. An image sequence shows four variations
of sound and narration read over a Yukutsk town bus passing a Zim luxury car, roadlevellers and a squinting passer-by, each variation purposefully conflicts the other.
Firstly we view this as a silent image, and then a pro-Soviet eulogy, a darkly antiCommunist critique, lastly a report of the narrators own impressions completes the
arrangement3. Marker neatly clarifies how the truth of an image and the reality it
represents is subject, always, to ideological interpretation.
The focus on an individuals experience, however, whilst directing attention to
narratives of personal woe and failure, begins to take on much of the same likeness
of others stories, thus an archetype begins to take shape. What arises, therefore, is a
personalised story that becomes interchangeable with all other stories; the devices that
enforce this rhetoric of victimisation become standardised obscuring the polysemic
nature of the image. This results in a general tendency to feel we know the stories
before we are told them; the complexities of cultural, economic, social and historical
circumstances are erased in many such narratives as one story seamlessly replaces
another. In order to negate the often assumed and induced passivity when watching
film or video work it is important to query what Sidn asks and expects of the viewer
in their engagement with Warte Mal! The depiction of female sex workers in both the
art and media of the last three centuries has typically given rise to the fallen women,
codified as either deviant or helpless. By codifying the prostitute in either or both of
these two clichs the female sex worker is positioned as the other and the tropes
of victimhood prevail4. The focus on the alterity of the individual deflects attention
away from the cultural conditions, policies, both national and international and the
socio-political and economic forces that form the material conditions that enforce
many women to work in the sex industry5. The viewer, in much documentary work
is incited predominantly to feel empathy and sympathy resulting in the potential to
neglect analysis and anger.
What space then is carved out for the viewer in this work? Are we only able to exist
as voyeur and if so what does this mean for the objectification and resulting consumption of these womens lives? There are certainly moments of seductive fascination
presented, through the affectivity of the monologues delivered, but more unmistakably
through Sidns diary utterances. We hear Sidns insider knowledge and familiarity
frequently; what the girls like and dislike, judgments and assessments of them, their

See the US-based Freedom Network as discussed in Hesfords aforementioned essay.


Susan SONTAG, Regarding the Pain of Others, Penguin Books, London, 2003, p. 9.
3
Catherine LUPTON, Chris Marker: Memories of the Future, Reaktion Books, London, 2005,
p. 57.
4
See Hesfords discussion of Open Your Eyes a film made by International Organization for
Migration made in 2001 in the above cited text.
5
Wendy HESFORD, Global Sex Work and Video Advocacy: The Geopolitics of Rhetorical
Identification, in Ursula BIEMANN, Jan-Erik LUNDSTRM (eds.), Mission Reports: Artistic
Practice in the Field, Video Works 1998-2008, Bildmuseet, Ume University, Sweden, 2008,
pp. 128-142.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

630

AMY CHARLESWORTH

clients and pimps. We are drawn to reading the semi-private musings and accounts
of Sidns time spent in Dubi, compelled by the ordinary and extraordinary lives of
those filmed. Whilst these issues are clearly still one of the most exposed aspects of
the work, Sidn selects two devices that aim to counter the above concerns. The first
is the installation of the works in such a manner that the viewer must physically move
through the space in order to gain some sense of the whole. Perhaps if we view the
choice of installation in this light we are still able to pay attention to Roslers demand
for not neglecting relationship between broadcasting history and video work such
as this but rather acknowledge the different roles the spectator has historically taken
when watching television or walking around an exhibition. Secondly are the moments
at which the dialectical play between hope and despair become inescapable. Shots
and/or dialogue in which the girls are playful and humorous and displays of loyalty
and solidarity permeate the work; the inhabitants of Dubi devise and illustrate how
there are always new ways to live in the fissures of our changed nation states. This
is the place in which the instrumentality of Sidn as the author of the work is clearly
figured. When we are told that one of the girls has a fondest for the artist, perhaps as
a mother figure, suggests Sidn, it could be construed as a display of unnecessary
solipsism, however, it serves to remind us that we can only know of this research
through the highly mediated subjectivity of the artist, of Sidn herself. This is not
to make an argument for a return to restricting the proliferation of meaning by only
hearing the voice of the author, but rather to state that it is only ever possible to know
the world and its histories as a faction of fiction told by another.
Sidns aim to examine ordinary peoples lives in the face of huge structural readjustment, the transgression from being a former Eastern Bloc communist state to a
democratic capitalist state, explores how it happens at the site of the body, here it
is the womens bodies that are the site of exchange, their bodies code and determine
how life gets played out on the border. In light of the uneasy ground in which Sidn
carefully navigates throughout Warte Mal! the transparency of her role as author
must operate un-ambiguously. As discussed, this surfaces most clearly through her
analysis of the voice, whether it is through the interviewing or the seductive diary
entries, the over-determinative effects of speaking for the other and the danger to
re-victimize, silence and marginalize further is given due care (in light of feminist
and post-colonial criticism). Sidn makes difficult, through her presence in the work,
not only through voice, but also as images (the artist and her translators are not
always positioned as periphery or un-consequential to the frame) the role of artist as
ethnographic reporter of sorts. In the act of selecting a group for the object of study
one always already positions oneself on the outside looking in. For Sidn though, her
own subjectivity is tangled, sometimes purposefully, other times abstractedly into the
fabric of Warte Mal!
The works careful confluence and movement between image and text transgress
the pitfalls of mainstream media and the obsessive search for that one defining image
that tells the truth; rhetoric still annexed, for many, to the documentary project, which
has over the past decade or so had a re-investment of interest due to the work of Mark
Nash, Maria Lind and Hito Steyerl (to name only a few key figures). It is a subtle
project that, despite its focus on individual stories, the myriad and complex ways in
which these interact and contradict result in a shift from the isolating of individual
misfortune, assigning blame or sympathy at that specific juncture to the systematic
failures of a broader political, social and economic spheres. Personal testimonies, as
Warte Mal! explores, do play a substantially important role in breaking dominant
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Warte Mal!

631

discourse, however it notes that on its own this is not enough, it enforces us to
pay attention to how we read and disseminate them, aiming for a sustainable and
innovative form of representation. The resurrection of the visibility of the author and
the complexities of the subjects position for speaking in the shifting geographies of
late capitalism is both a product and a symptom of a need for a redefinition of agency
of which Warte Mal! attempts to explore.
Warte Mal! is considered here as opening up two main issues for address, both tied
to the politics of form. The wider project of the documentary is in a sense, biopolitical,
in that it appropriates trying to gain knowledge of those filmed. It is not, therefore,
unusual that Sidn aims to utilize the documentary in order to gain an understanding
of how life is embodied and played out at a transformative juncture.
The often referred to documentary turn in art discourse of the last decade is
entangled (as outlined above with the deployment of Groys) with the biopolitical
character of neoliberal capitalism post-1970. Certainly part of this work is a desire to
humanize the postcommunist condition. In this text I have attempted to map out the
issues the project must negotiate in order to produce a kind of sustainable mode of
representation that maintains the specificity of the aesthetic as a device for enabling
one to see differently through a re-organized register. Despite the rather grand task of
crystallizing subjectivity in Dubi, grand narratives do not distinguish this work, they
function in an evocatory and suggestive capacity. For instance, had the work focused
more explicitly on the men that travel through Dubi the work may have attended to
more of a totalizing narrative.
Certain images used appeal to our sense of humanity; the close-ups of the
womens faces, the panoramic stretches depicting the sparsity of the landscape are
unfamiliar and yet not. The women that wait on the roadsides indicate that although
former industries have closed, the altered and relocated labour of this locality is
embodied in the exchange of money and sex. Sidns focus on the people, particularly
the women, and the use of certain shots presents difficulties that become visible when
the aesthetic and formal strategies of the documentary are taken, or referred to, in
the discussion and dissemination of the work, as un-critical and un-historical. The
fractious history of the moveable category of documentary, its periods of critique
and reformulation and its use to know life even if only in a relative sense has meant
a stringent focus on history, its narrative telling and a unavoidable engagement with
the indiscernibly artistic and commercial components of the video camera and its
relationship to the politics of truth.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

632

AMY CHARLESWORTH

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

633

Il tait une fois un pays

Il tait une fois un pays

Propagande, pouvoir et tnbres dans lUnderground


dEmir Kusturica (1995)
ANDREI POAM
suivre Costic Brdan, lun des thmes majeurs qui traversent lactualit
du postcommunisme est-europen est celui de la remise en forme de la situation
temporelle des individus et des collectivits. la base de cette proccupation pour la
rappropriation du temps, on trouve un long processus de manipulation politique,
voire une altration systmatique du pass1, qui ont nourri lexistence des rgimes
communistes. Plus prcisment, lexprience individuelle du temps en communisme
est constitue, de manire prminente, partir de lextrieur: lindividu subit le
temps, il ne le matrise pas. Ou plutt, comme la montr Katherine Verdery, ce sont
les autorits en place qui contrlent lindividu travers le contrle quelles exercent
sur son exprience temporelle:
Ne pas savoir quand le bus est cens arriver, quand les voitures pourront
circuler de nouveau, quand lexamen pour les spcialisations mdicales aura
lieu, quand la nourriture apparatra dans les magasins, les corps se trouvent
paralyss, suspendus dans un vide qui rend vain tout projet et tout plan mis
part les plus flexibles et les plus spontans2.

Cest en raction ce bouleversement des repres temporels que toute une


rhtorique postcommuniste a merg, prnant lurgence dune rcupration, voire
dune rinterprtation, du temps pass. ce quil parat, cette qute sest avre
dramatique: cest
prcisment parce que lexprience communiste a dtruit les racines dun
sens normal/perception du temps que les gens de lpoque postcommuniste se
trouvent face une pnible impossibilit de comprendre leur pass communiste
de manire adquate3.

Pour rsumer: la difficult du postcommunisme consiste retrouver le sens dun


temps ayant enclench la perte du sens du temps.
Lhypothse que javance dans le sillage de lanalyse de Costic Brdan est que
la filmographie postcommuniste sest graduellement constitue comme une manire
de rpondre cette problmatique du temps. Plus particulirement, il me semble

Costica BRADATAN, A Time of Crisis A Crisis of (the Sense of) Time: The Political
Production of Time in Communism and its Relevance for the Postcommunist Debates, East
European Politics and Societies, vol. 19, no. 2, 2005, p. 288.
2
Katherine VERDERY, What was Socialism? And What Comes Next?, Princeton University
Press, Princeton, NJ, p. 49, apud Costica BRADATAN, A Time of Crisiscit., p. 285.
3
Ibidem, p. 289.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. X no. 4 2011

634

ANDREI POAM

quon peut observer que les cinastes de lpoque postcommuniste ont contribu la
rappropriation du pass en remplaant la lecture temporelle du temps par une lecture
spatiale de celui-ci. Le film transforme le pass en image; ou, pour le dire dune manire
plus directe: les cinastes ont entrepris de rcuprer le pass en le spatialisant. Or,
limage nest que le temps devenu tendue. Le cinma postcommuniste pourrait, de
ce point de vue, tre analys comme un mcanisme de stabilisation dun pass fuyant
lintrieur du cadre prcis de la pellicule filmique. Le sens du pass communiste
finit, ce niveau, par se fixer et se dfinir travers la matrialit spatialisante de
limage cinmatographique.
Aussi, le cinaste se transforme, dune certaine manire, en historien1. Seulement,
ses outils ne se confondent pas avec ceux de lhistoire: le rcit des archives, lcriture
et la parole ne suffisent pas. ces lments, le cinaste-historien ajoute le langage de
limage: la narration qui se dploie essentiellement dans la dure se trouve alors
inscrite dans une forme spatiale.
Cette technique de la spatialisation du temps est manifestement prsente, la fois
de manire relle et figure, dans le film dEmir Kusturica, Underground (1995). Aussi,
en analysant ce film, je me propose de montrer, dune manire forcment circonscrite,
ce que la spatialisation du pass apporte de particulier la question de la perte du
sens du temps en postcommunisme.
Fruit dun scnario rcrit seize fois par Duan Kovaevi et Emir Kusturica
pendant trois ans, Underground nest, au fond, que le dveloppement de lide que
la naissance dune guerre aboutit la naissance dune autre2. Le film contient trois
plans chronologiques principaux qui longent une priode dpassant un demi-sicle:
la Seconde Guerre mondiale (dont le moment initial dans le film est le 6 avril 1941),
la Guerre Froide et ce que Kusturica dsigne, de manire mtonymique, comme
la Guerre, voire la srie des conflits interethniques marquant le dchirement de
lancienne Yougoslavie titiste au dbut des annes 90.
Le film sarticule autour dune double intrigue. un premier niveau, il sagit
de lhistoire dun triangle amoureux: Marko Dren et Peter Popara Blacky, amis et
membres de la rsistance communiste pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale et
Natalija, une actrice qui sombre finalement dans lalcoolisme et la dpression. un
deuxime niveau, il est question de faire le procs dune supercherie: aprs les avoir
cachs dans la cave dune maison de Belgrade, Marko et Natalija trompent Blacky
et les autres membres de la rsistance communiste du fait que la Seconde Guerre
mondiale continue3. Les deux en profitent pour se lancer dans le trafic darmes que
les rsistants fabriquent dans la cave, en se prparant contre une pseudo-invasion
allemande4.
Sil fallait rsumer Underground, mieux serait de reprendre les mots de Kusturica
lui-mme: cest en gros, dit-il, ce qua fait Tito avec les Yougoslaves pendant trente

1
Judith KEENE, The Filmmaker as Historian, Above and Below Ground Emir Kusturica
and the Narratives of Yugoslav History, Rethinking History, vol. 5, no. 2, 2001, pp. 233-253.
2
Graham FULLER, Le ralisateur quils ne pouvaient pas craser, interview avec Emir
Kusturica, http://www.kustu.com/w2/fr:interviews, septembre 1999 (consult le 05.11.2011).
3
Cest la maison du grand-pre de Marko, le seul personnage qui, vivant dans la cave, sait
que la guerre a cess depuis longtemps.
4
Steve RIOUX, Underground de Emir Kusturica. Gros plan sur lanne 1995, les prix et
jurys, 1997 (10 janvier 2007). http://www.cannes-fest.com/1995.htm (consult le 04.11.2011).

Romanian Political Science Review vol. X no. 4 2011

Il tait une fois un pays

635

ans1. Il sagit, par consquent, du rcit filmique dun pisode historique bien prcis:
lexprience national-communiste reprsente par la Yougoslavie titiste2.
Cest en suivant la logique intrieure du film que je vais essayer de retracer trois
niveaux dintelligibilit de cette aventure du communisme la Tito, ainsi quelle
apparat dans lUnderground de Kusturica. Je mintresse, dabord, au rle jou par
la propagande lintrieur du rgime politique yougoslave. Jexamine, ensuite, la
manire dont le film rend compte des rapports de pouvoir qui ont travers, agenc
et marqu lhistoire de la seconde Yougoslavie3. Je tente, enfin, danalyser la mise
en place de lespace factice de lUnderground comme une technique spcifique de
construction, voire de modification de lidentit des individus qui lhabitent. Trois
tapes de linterprtation, par consquent: la premire, discursive, vise larticulation
de la parole filmique au point de croisement entre art et politique; la deuxime,
pratique, concerne la rflexion que Kusturica porte sur la question du rapport entre
art et action politique; la troisime, anthropologique, renvoie la manire dont la
structuration esthtique de lespace dbouche sur le faonnement des individus qui
y appartiennent. Triple point dattaque analytique qui charpente le souvenir filmique
dun pays qui nexiste plus: propagande, pouvoir et tnbres.
Plus simplement, il est question dinterprter lintrigue dUnderground et la ralit
historique qui ltaye en partant de cette dernire phrase de lpilogue du film:
Cest avec peine, avec tristesse et joie que nous nous souviendrons de
notre pays, lorsque nous raconterons nos enfants des histoires qui commencent
comme tous les contes de fes: il tait une fois un pays...4.

Propagande: mensonge, art et politique


Ds que le film remporte le Palme dor au Festival de Cannes en 1995, tout un
front de critiques se met en place. La plus importante semble tre celle du philosophe
franais Alain Finkelkraut qui sans avoir mme vu le film le qualifie comme la
propagande serbe la plus radoteuse et la plus mensongre et voit en son metteur
en scne lillustrateur servile et tape--lil de clichs criminels5. Il nhsitera non
plus, quelques mois aprs, tiqueter ce dernier de collabo [] [ayant] empoch la
palme du martyr6. Cependant, il raffine son valuation du film: un bon exemple de
propagande onirique gravitant autour de la nostalgie dune Yougoslavie inspire
pour le meilleur et pour le pire par lme serbe et toujours dj trahie par ses autres

1
Emir KUSTURICA, Underground comme un ouragan, interview, Le Point, no. 1205,
le 21 octobre 1995.
2
Les conflits interethniques occupent peine les dernires quinze minutes du film, place
plutt marginale, en consquence. De plus, Kusturica souligne le fait que ses intentions sont
plutt historico-esthtiques que politiques: Je ne crois pas que la mission dun artiste soit de
sexprimer chaud sur son poque. Emir KUSTURICA, Undergroundcit..
3
La premire tant le royaume des Serbes, des Slovnes et des Croates de lentre-deuxguerres.
4
Emir KUSTURICA, Underground (Bila jednom jedna zemlja), 1995 (France-Rpublique
Fdrale de Yougoslavie-Allemagne-Hongrie, 1995), drame/comdie [DVD].
5
Alain FINKELKRAUT, Limposture Kusturica, Le Monde, le 2 juin 1995.
6
IDEM, La propagande onirique dEmir Kusturica, Libration, le 30 octobre 1995.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. X no. 4 2011

636

ANDREI POAM

composantes, complte-t-il1. Le reproche sera plus tard repris par Dina Iordanova,
cette fois-ci dans le registre de lthique professionnelle: en choisissant de tourner
le film Belgrade, Kusturica, souligne-t-elle, a pris la partie de lagresseur. Pire
encore, elle sempresse de le comparer Lni Riefenstahl2.
Il ne sagit pas pour autant ni de redresser les alas de cette polmique, ni de
reconstruire de manire fidle la narration du film afin dy dceler les ventuels
drapages moraux de Kusturica. Il convient de se rappeler que ainsi que le prcise
Laurent Jullier ailleurs la plupart du temps les critiques nont pas la place de mener
une vritable analyse du film3. Ainsi, le regarder de plus prs, on se rend compte du
fait quUnderground nest pas un film de propagande, mais un film sur la propagande,
voire un film qui se propose de dvoiler les mcanismes intimes de celle-ci. Underground,
insiste Kusturica, est un pamphlet ironique contre toutes les propagandes, do quelles
viennent4. Cest travers ce regard railleur que le metteur en scne semble dgager deux
des interprtations possibles quon peut donner du discours propagandiste: la propagande
comme mensonge, dun ct; la propagande comme agencement de symboles, de lautre.
Dire que la propagande nest quune modalit dinfluencer dune manire voile
les attitudes concernant les points de controverse dans une certaine socit, cest
exprimer de faon plus complique la vue selon laquelle la propagande consiste
dans une srie de mensonges censs maintenir la cohsion et lunit du social5. Dans
ce sens, tout ce que fait Marko Dren pour maintenir les rsistants communistes dans
la cave de son grand-pre nest que pure gesticulation propagandiste: en descendant
priodiquement un appareil radio diffusant la voix tonitruante dHitler dans les
souterrains abritant les rsistants, Marko les fait croire que la Seconde Guerre
mondiale fait rage encore. Selon les dires de Natalija devenue sa concubine entre
temps Marko est devenu lhomme qui russit toujours mentir admirablement6.
En effet, linterprtation a t mene assez loin pour quon puisse dire que Marko
symbolise Tito lui-mme: plus que son collaborateur dans le film, il en est comme
lpigone fictif7. Le dictateur reste, de ce point de vue, un tre de dissimulation, de
cruaut et derrance: lors dune confrontation entre Marko et Natalija, celle-ci le
qualifie, tour tour, de fripouille, dassassin, de criminel et de voleur. Mais
le dictateur est aussi celui qui, en trompant les autres, les tient prisonniers sans quils
le sachent: Tu les as enferms ici reproche Natalija Marko pour quils vivent,
travaillent et meurent pour toi8. Le fait de squestrer toute une communaut qui
ignore par cela mme sa propre condition voque, encore une fois, la figure de Tito.
Dans une interview accorde lExpress par Enki Bilal et Emir Kusturica, le premier
semble rsumer cette situation:

Ibidem.
Dina IORDANOVA, Kusturicas Underground (1995): Historical Allegory or Propaganda?,
Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, vol. 19, no. 1, 1999, pp. 76-77.
3
Laurent JULLIER, La critique de cinma entre raison et je-ne-sais-quoi, Esprit, no. 11,
1995, p. 54.
4
Emir KUSTURICA, Undergroundcit..
5
Charles R. HOFFER, A Sociological Analysis of Propaganda, Social Forces, vol. 20,
no. 4, 1942, pp. 445-448.
6
Emir KUSTURICA, Undergroundcit.
7
Matthieu DHENNIN, http://www.kustu.com/fr:cles_pour_underground (consult le
05.11.2011)
8
Emir KUSTURICA, Undergroundcit.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. X no. 4 2011

Il tait une fois un pays

637

Tito, cest la chape qui a tout recouvert, tout endormi. En mnageant aux
Yougoslaves lillusion dune petite vie agrable, il a plong en hibernation les
frottements nationalistes et religieux1.

Cest en cela que consiste, finalement, la propagande mene sous le rgime de


Tito: sous les couverts dune illusion rgie en dtail et entretenue de prs, toute tension
sociale se trouve attnue, amoindrie, paralyse. Plus gnralement, il sagit de
signifier que la fondation de toute autorit dictatoriale est donne par cette supercherie
initiale: on sentend les uns avec autres parce quon est mentis systmatiquement. La
communication nest possible que sur le fond du quid pro quo.
Ce contraste entre lentreprise propagandiste et la ralit sociale, dbouche, dune
manire plus gnrale, sur lopposition entre vrit et politique, dune part, entre art
et politique dautre part. Le premier antagonisme remonte assez loin et trouve sa
source dans ce que Hannah Arendt appelle le conflit platonicien entre les diseurs
de vrit et les citoyens2. De ce conflit, il y a toute une gnalogie: pour suivre
largumentation de Michel Foucault, cest depuis le Ve sicle quil y a divorce entre
pouvoir et vrit, entre politique et savoir3. Mais ce conflit, pour revenir Arendt, revt
un double aspect: il est, dune part, conflit entre vrit et opinion, conflit entre vrit
de fait et mensonge, dautre part. Cest cette dernire composante de lopposition qui
est centrale linterprtation dUnderground. Lexistence mme des souterrains nest
quun mensonge cachant une vrit de fait: la Seconde Guerre mondiale est finie. Cette
permanente occultation trouve son agent principal dans Marko Dren. Celui-ci est le
personnage qui ment comme il vit. Mais il est aussi lhomme qui vit en permanente
immersion dans un milieu essentiellement mensonger, le dictateur autour duquel
sarticulent graduellement les
systmes relativement ferms des gouvernements totalitaires et des dictatures
de parti unique qui sont, bien sr, de loin, les agents les plus efficaces pour
protger les idologies et les images de limpact de la ralit et de la vrit4.

Ce qui caractrise, en dernier ressort, la propagande de type totalitaire, cest


quelle pratique prcise Nelson dans le sillage dArendt la ngation ferme
de limportance des faits en gnral: tous les faits peuvent tre changs et tous les
mensonges peuvent devenir des vrits5. Cette ubiquit du mensonge fait que toute
distinction entre vrit et mensonge se trouve dissoute: Marko est la fois lartisan et

Notre Yougoslavie, interview croise entre Enki Bilal et Emir Kusturica, LExpress,
septembre 1992.
2
Hannah ARENDT Vrit et politique, in IDEM, La crise de la culture, Gallimard, Paris,
2002, p. 292.
3
Michel FOUCAULT, La vrit et les formes juridiques, in IDEM, Dits et crits I,
Gallimard, Paris, 2001, pp. 1437-1438. Cette hypothse est retrouver, avant Foucault, chez
Marcel Dtienne, lorsque ce dernier analyse le passage de la production prclassique de la
vrit centre autour des figures du pote et du devin sa formulation classique, tournant
autour de la figure du philosophe, dans Marcel DTIENNE, Les matres de vrit dans la Grce
antique, Franois Maspro, Paris, 1967.
4
Hannah ARENDT, Vrit et politique, cit., pp. 326-327.
5
John S. NELSON, Politics and Truth: Arendts Problematic, American Journal of Political
Science, vol. 22, no. 2, 1978, p. 273.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. X no. 4 2011

638

ANDREI POAM

la victime de ses propres falsifications. Lorsque Natalija lui demande de revenir la


vrit, il va rpondre sur un ton dsespr:
Aucun texte ne contient la vrit. Ce genre de choses existe seulement dans
la vie [] Il ny a pas de vrit lexception de la croyance que tu as dans le fait
que ton acte est la vrit. Lart est un mensonge. Un grand mensonge. Nous
sommes tous des menteurs un peu1.

Cest dans cette opposition presque symtrique entre politique et vrit, dun
ct, entre art et vrit, de lautre, que politique et art se rencontrent2. Ce qui rapproche
les deux, cest leur ractivit commune par rapport la vrit. La double opposition
politique-vrit/art-vrit dbouche, en fin de compte, sur une sorte de complicit
entre art et politique. De cette complicit, Marko, qui se veut tout dabord un pote, et
Natalija, dans la mesure o elle reste une actrice, sont lincarnation la plus vidente.
Cest dans ce sens que la propagande en tant que langage spcifiquement
artistique dont le politique se dote soppose doublement la vrit: par son expression,
en tant quart; par sa substance, en tant que position politique. La propagande, cest,
au fond, ce discours stratgiquement politique et tactiquement potique. Cest ce
que Kusturica essaye de souligner dune certaine manire par les images darchive
quil truque (comme dans Forest Gump) en y insrant les acteurs interprtant Blacky,
Natalija et Marko; cela, il le fait deux reprises: lors de lentre de nazis dans les villes
de Maribor, Zagreb, Belgrade et lors des vnements prparant la fin de la Seconde
Guerre mondiale. Tout ceci pour montrer, au fond, que la texture mme dune
histoire contrle et manipule par le politique nest que le mensonge pur et dur. En
intervenant intentionnellement de manire grossire et stridente dans ces documents
historiques, Kusturica dnonce en creux toute une srie de pratiques qui consistent
rcrire lhistoire la commande des intrts politiques les plus mesquins. Entre les
villages de Potemkine et Marko tenant son discours hypocrite ct de Tito se dessine
ainsi la continuit de lhistoire des techniques de falsification.
Ce maniement abusif du pass historique fonctionne aussi sur un autre plan, qui
nest pas tant celui des mensonges qui trompent, mais des symboles qui mobilisent. La
propagande est plus quun mensonge qui apaise des tensions et adoucit des conflits,
elle est la gestion des attitudes collectives travers la manipulation des symboles
significatifs3.
Il est fcond denvisager, de ce point de vue, la technique du film dans le film dans
lUnderground de Kusturica. Cette technique ne sarrte pas linsertion des acteurs
dans des images historiquement vraies: elle est complte, dans un premier temps,
par les films que Marko retransmet la tlvision aux gens du sous-sol et, dans un
deuxime temps, par le tournage, durant lge visiblement titiste, dun film sur la
rsistance communiste.

Emir KUSTURICA, Undergroundcit.


Cette opposition entre art et vrit pourrait tre aisment raccorde au mme conflit
platonicien dont parle Hannah Arendt. Platon reste celui qui, dans lhistoire de la philosophie,
bannit les potes hors la cit.
3
Harold D. LASSWELL, The Theory of Political Propaganda, The American Political
Science Review, vol. 21, no. 3, 1927, pp. 627-631. V. aussi Harold D. LASSWELL, The Function
of the Propagandist, International Journal of Ethics, vol. 38, no. 3, 1928, pp. 258-268.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. X no. 4 2011

Il tait une fois un pays

639

Cette technique du film dans le film soulve deux questions: dun ct, celle du
rapport entre film, histoire et propagande; celle de la relation entre symboles, art et
propagande, de lautre.
Le film, est-il capable de nous enseigner quelque chose de vrai sur lhistoire? Cette
question a t souleve dans la priode qui prcde et suit de manire immdiate le
tournage dUnderground, de sorte que le film puisse tre considr partie prenante
ce dbat. Il sagit dun affrontement qui met face face un historien qui attend que
lart en particulier, le film lui dise la vrit sur le pass et un metteur en scne qui
refuse au film toute vocation historique proprement dite.
Dune part, lhistoriographe positiviste Kristian Erslev: lcriture de lhistoire,
soutient celui-ci, doit prendre la forme de lart. La reprsentation du pass historique
prouvera ainsi le registre dramatique: elle sera faite avec beaucoup dimagination
et de manire vivante1. Dautre part, le metteur en scne Peter Davis: il ne voudrait
pas, affirme-t-il, apprendre son histoire travers les films historiques, tout comme
il ne voudrait pas acqurir ses connaissances scientifiques par le biais de la science
fiction2. Entre ces deux positions irrductibles lune lautre, il y a celle de Hayden
White qui essaye de crditer la fois la reprsentation de lhistoire par des images
verbales et le discours crit (lhistoriographie) et la reprsentation de lhistoire et de
nos penses travers les images visuelles et le discours filmique3 (lhistoriophotie).
On pourrait dire que Kusturica occupe une position analogue celle de White: il
est bien clair que son film se veut une rflexion historico-esthtique sur lexprience
yougoslave, une allgorie historique selon lexpression dIordanova. Toutefois,
Kusturica semble partager le pessimisme davisien, tout en tant conscient du fait que
pour reprendre la remarque de Rosenstone il y a quelque chose qui se passe sur
le chemin qui va de la page crite lcran, qui change le sens du pass de la manire
dont il est compris par ceux [] qui travaillent avec des mots4. Pour lui, le film
dgrade lhistoire crite en ceci quil la rend caricaturale, mais cela seulement dans la
mesure o lhistoire crite contient dj des falsifications patentes.
Tout ceci mrite une explication plus dtaille. Kusturica incruste le tournage
dun autre film dans le film proprement dit: ce film dans le film intitul Le printemps
arrive sur un cheval blanc est la traduction en images des mmoires de Marko Dren,
maintenant devenu hros national. Marko et Natalija visitent le plateau de tournage,
occasion pour eux de rencontrer les acteurs qui les interprtent et qui en sont comme
les sosies. Lamateurisme du metteur en scne, la cabotinisme des acteurs, la banalit
des rpliques sont autant dopportunits pour Kusturica de dnoncer la fonction
idologico-propagandiste que les mdias et le cinma ont jou pendant lpoque

1
Cit dans Rasmus FALBE-HANSEN, The Filmmaker as Historian, P.O.V: Film and
Politics, no. 16, 2003, pp. 108-118. http://pov.imv.au.dk/Issue_16/section_1/artc12A.html
(consult le 04.11.2011).
2
Robert Brent TOPLIN, The Filmmaker as Historian, The American Historical Review,
vol. 93, no 5, 1988, p. 1219.
3
Hayden WHITE, Historiography and Historiophoty, The American Historical Review,
vol. 93, no. 5, 1988, p. 1193. V. aussi IDEM, The Burden of History, History and Theory, vol. 5,
no. 2, 1966, pp. 111-134. Cest ici que White explique en dtail les relations entre art, science (ce
que je dsigne par vrit ici) et histoire.
4
Robert A. ROSENSTONE, History in Images/History in Words: Reflections on the
Possibility of Really Putting History onto Film, The American Historical Review, vol. 93, no. 5,
1988, p. 1173.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. X no. 4 2011

640

ANDREI POAM

titiste. Cest dans ce sens que les mensonges contenus dans les mmoires de Marko
sont rendus transparents par le fait quils se convertissent dans une srie dimages:
le mensonge devient vident en devenant visible comme mensonge. Si la question
de la vocation pour la vrit nest pas tranche une fois pour toutes, une chose est
nanmoins certaine: le film a le don de dnoncer labsence intentionnelle de vrit; il
peut fonctionner comme dtecteur de mensonge.
Lorsquil ne parodie pas le mensonge, le film adresse de manire critique la
fabrication de toutes pices des hros nationaux. La propagande est ainsi, tour tour,
mensonge, divertissement et invention des symboles nationaux ad-hoc. Kusturica en
donne un bon exemple de cette dernire pratique propagandiste lorsque, au dbut de
la deuxime partie du film, Marko inaugure le buste de Blacky, devenu entre temps
le symbole de la lutte contre les fascistes1. Ce buste est entour par toute une lisire
de symboles qui ont donn unit et cohrence lpoque titiste: les Kalachnikovs et le
tank (symboles de lindustrie militaire), la cave (symbole du communisme point sur
lequel je vais revenir), le mariage entre Yovan et Jelena (symbole de la rconciliation),
les chansons et les quantits impressionnantes dalcool (symboles de la nature
hdoniste des habitants de Yougoslavie2).

Le pouvoir qui fait rire et le pouvoir qui tue


Nanmoins, Underground nest pas uniquement un film qui parle de la propagande.
Plus que cela, Kusturica tourne un film qui miroite le visage dun certain type de
pouvoir: cest ce que Michel Foucault appelle le pouvoir ubuesque3. Ubuesque
comme synonyme du grotesque, indique-t-il. De cette catgorie de lubuesquegrotesque, Foucault dresse lesquisse historique:
La terreur ubuesque, la souverainet grotesque ou [] la maximalisation
des effets de pouvoir partir de la disqualification de celui qui les produit: ceci
[] nest pas un accident dans lhistoire du pouvoir [] Le pouvoir politique
[] sest donn effectivement la possibilit de faire transmettre ses effets, bien
plus, de trouver lorigine de ses effets, dans un coin qui est [] volontairement
disqualifi par lodieux, linfme ou le ridicule4.

Foucault cite ainsi Shakespeare, Balzac, Dostoevski, Courteline et Kafka


comme les exgtes de cette catgorie du pouvoir grotesque, de cette souverainet
arbitraire dans laquelle le pouvoir se donne limage dtre issu de quelquun qui
tait thtralement dguis, dessin comme un clown, comme un pitre5. Il convient
peut-tre de complter cette gallrie jusquici prminemment littraire par une autre,
fondamentalement cinmatographique, qui longerait le XXe sicle, de Chaplin
Kusturica. Le dictateur chaplinien et Marko Dren se placent, au fond, dans le sillage de
Macbeth et en sont comme les benjamins filmiques. Deux sont les noyaux durs autour

Emir KUSTURICA, Undergroundcit.


Graham FULLER, Le ralisateurcit..
3
Michel FOUCAULT, Les Anormaux, Gallimard/Seuil, Paris, 1999, pp. 12-14.
4
Ibidem.
5
Ibidem.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. X no. 4 2011

Il tait une fois un pays

641

desquels ce pouvoir grotesque sarticule: dun ct, le rire et, plus gnralement,
lhumour; de lautre, la souffrance et la mort. Cest la fois le pouvoir dun bouffon et le
pouvoir dun bourreau.
Le pouvoir dUbu est un pouvoir qui fait rire: il suffit de se souvenir de ce Marko
qui, jouant le saltimbanque, feint davoir t tortur par le Gestapo, se dsarticule plus
quil ne danse, trompe son meilleur ami tout en souriant, badine avec les trafiquants
darmes et rcite avec pathos histrionique des mdiocres posies patriotiques quil
compose lui-mme1.
Le pouvoir ubuesque est un pouvoir qui tue et torture: du moment quil tient
ces gens enferms dans le souterrain, Marko a pouvoir de vie et de mort sur eux. Ils
sont comme ses btes; lui, il est leur berger: lors des noces de son fils, Marko tient
lui remercier pour les avoir soign, nourri et pour avoir garanti leur sant. En ralit,
tous les membres de cette rsistance ignorant sa propre futilit sont les victimes du
mme bourreau qui les exploite: Ils vivent, meurent et travaillent pour lui, souligne
Natalija2. Le pouvoir ubuesque repose sur une socit de la misre qui signore ellemme. Plus que des corps, Marko tue des mes: Je suis morte depuis vingt ans,
avoue Natalija. Ivre, elle explose: Si je ne suis pas ivre, je ne peux pas te regarder!
[] Je bois de lalcool, mais toi, tu bois mon sang3. Le pouvoir ubuesque est, par
consquent, un pouvoir qui abtit: de cela, la dbilit mentale lgre dYvan (frre
de Marko, mais enferm lui aussi dans la cave) et Soni, le singe, sont les symboles
les plus prgnants. Finalement, tout ce jeu de lubuesque-grotesque mne au nant
moral. Marko lui-mme ladmet avant de dynamiter la cave, tuant ainsi une partie
des rsistants:
On ne peut plus vivre dans ce pays [] avec ces fous, ces malades mentaux,
ces psychopathes, maniaques, menteurs, voleurs, criminels, assassins. [] Il ny
a plus rien qui soit rest pour un honnte homme dans ce pays. Rien4.

Souterrains et identit
Dbut de la troisime partie du film: Yvan, le frre de Marko, est intern dans un
asile berlinois pour malades mentaux. Son visage est blme, fatigu, plein de rides; le
regardant distance, un des mdecins allemands commente: Il ma dit des choses bien
tranges: quil a t enferm dans une cave [] Le communisme a t une immense
cave5. La mtaphore des souterrains qui enferment devient ainsi travers cette
phrase ayant le ton dun diagnostic la ferme dnonciation dun rgime politique
rvolu; le film offre ainsi, vers sa fin, la cl qui lexplique. Underground contient sa
propre interprtation: la cave est le monde mme du national-communisme titiste,
allgorie historique dun ge totalitaire6.
1
Emir KUSTURICA, Undergroundcit. On retrouve un personnage similaire dans le film
de Nae CARANFIL, Filantropica (2002), avec le pote de la Gare du Nord qui vend ses pomes
aux passants pour des shots de vodka.
2
Ibidem.
3
Ibidem.
4
Ibidem.
5
Ibidem.
6
Dina IORDANOVA, Kusturicas Undergroundcit..

Romanian Political Science Review vol. X no. 4 2011

642

ANDREI POAM

Le concept mme de totalitarisme entre dans le jargon universitaire au cours des


annes 30 et il va tre raffin dans les trois ou quatre dcennies suivre: apparaissent
pendant toute cette priode des catalogues critriologiques censs inventorier les
attributs essentiels des rgimes totalitaires. Parmi ces listes dcoupant les grands
contours des totalitarismes, celle de Carl Friedrich et Zbigniew Brzezinski reste
peut-tre la plus importante, en tout cas la plus cite1. Il ne sagit pas pourtant ni de
rpertorier tous ces attributs ni den dresser le tableau gnral.
Tout au contraire, je me propose de mettre en vidence le rapport entre ce que
jappelle lespace commun total (dont le symbole si prgnant est ici la cave) et lidentit
des hommes ainsi quelle fut labore lintrieur du totalitarisme yougoslave.
De cet espace total, trois me semblent tre les caractristiques principales.
Premier attribut: cest un espace homogne, sans sparation, avec des paravents
toujours provisoires ou improviss, avec des passages poreux et des cloisonnements
visiblement fragiles. La morphologie de la cave marque le rgne du commun. Tout
appartient tous: la salle manger, les douches, la nourriture. Les enfants eux-mmes
sont rappelant dun projet vaguement platonicien les enfants de nimporte qui:
lorsque, lors du mariage dYvan, un des mntriers est frapp par le ballon des
enfants, le grand-pre de Marko lui dit que les enfants sont eux tous2. La cave
nest pas, comme on pourrait le supposer, labolition de lespace priv sous lemprise
totale de lespace public. Les deux notions de priv et de public nont dailleurs
de sens prcis que dans la mesure o elles sont considres conjointement. Plutt, la
cave renvoie la suppression simultane de lespace priv et du public. Elle indique,
plus prcisment, la manire dont le public et le priv disparaissent et se trouvent
remplacs par lespace commun. Lespace commun saffirme, ce niveau, comme le
signe de la disparation de lespace public savoir du politique en tant que lieu de la
manifestation des liberts fondamentales et de la sphre prive en tant que domaine
de dploiement des liberts individuelles.
Deuxime caractristique: lespace commun de la cave est celui dune transparence
sans brche. Rien nest cach lintrieur de cette cave: mme envelopp dans lobscurit
des souterrains, tout se voit et, plus que cela, tout sentend. Luniformit du regard et
de loue prolonge la monotonie de lespace physique. En pressant les hommes les uns
contre les autres, dirait Hannah Arendt, la terreur totale efface toute distance entre
eux3. comparer la tyrannie traditionnelle ce type de totalitarisme, cette premire
sera aussi contradictoire que cela puisse paratre la garantie de la libert4.
Lespace commun de la cave est, troisimement, un espace total, en ceci quil
prpare lavnement dun type dhomme prt accepter de vivre dans la dpossession
de soi-mme et dans labandon de ce quil a de spcifique. On tient l une caractristique
qui renvoie ce que Robert Jay Lifton dsigne par totalisme idologique5. Ce terme

Carl FRIEDRICH, Zbigniew BRZEZINSKI, Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy, Harvard


University Press, Cambridge, 1965.
2
Emir KUSTURICA, Undergroundcit.
3
Hannah ARENDT, The Origins of Totalitarianism, 2nde d., World, New York, 1966, p. 466.
4
Ibidem.
5
Robert Jay LIFTON, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brainwashing
in China, Norton, New York, 1961, chapitre. 22, p. 159. Mme si Lifton prend la Chine communiste
pour objet dtude, son argumentation est suffisamment gnrale pour quon puisse lappliquer
avec les raffinements requis au cas yougoslave et plus particulirement linterprtation
quen donne Kusturica dans son Underground.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. X no. 4 2011

Il tait une fois un pays

643

regroupe huit critres constitutifs: le milieu contrl, la manipulation mystique, la


demande de puret, le culte pour la confession, la science sacre, la langue de bois,
la subordination de la doctrine la personne et le monopole de lexistence1. Parmi
ces variables, je retiens les deux premires pour dcrire la fois la morphologie de
lespace total de la cave et la manire dont, lintrieur des souterrains, les hommes
sont assujettis.
Le sous-sol de cette maison de Belgrade a, dabord, la forme dun milieu contrl
dont Marko Dren est linstance centrale. Cest lui seulement qui ouvre ou ferme la
porte de la cave, cest lui galement qui assure la nourriture de ces gens. Cest lui
qui les trompe en leur fournissant des fausses informations sur ce qui se passe
lextrieur. Cest toujours lui qui, avec laide de son grand-pre, fait reculer de six
heures chaque jour la grande horloge dominant la cave. Il quadrille tout: subsistance,
information, espace et temps. Il est la fois le matre des corps qui travaillent pour
lui et lingnieur des mes qui lobissent. Consquence psychologique long
terme de ce contrle ininterrompu: les gens vivant dans les souterrains subissent un
brouillage de lquilibre entre le soi et le monde extrieur2. Cest le cas du fils de
Blacky qui sorti de la cave vers la fin du film confond la lune avec le soleil, un
cerf avec un cheval et sa femme avec un poisson nageant dans le Danube. Enfant de
cet milieu contrl, il est incapable de survivre en-dehors des souterrains: Je veux
rentrer dans la cave, dira-t-il finalement son pre3. Le fait dtre enferm lui est
indispensable. Ce nest pas pour rien si Soni et Yvan se retrouvent eux aussi dans la
cave: ils sont, traditionnellement, dun ct, lanimal quon renferme, de lautre, le fou
quon interne.
Le contrle total passe par la mise en uvre systmatique dun processus de
manipulation mystique. De celle-ci, on peroit aisment les signes. Dune part, cest
la chanson exaltant la figure de Tito, chanson qui traverse tous les coins de la cave et
qui anime tout le monde:
Camarade Tito, on te promet formellement de ne jamais quitter/La voie
que tu nous as montre/Camarade Tito, espoir du peuple/Camarade Tito, les
vieux et les jeunes taiment/Notre fleur printanire, la Serbie/Ne toublieras
jamais/Une violette bleue panouie sur loreiller du camarade Tito4.

On a l lessence mme de ce travail de manipulation mystique:


Initi den haut, on cherche imposer des modles spcifiques de comportement et dmotion de sorte quon ait limpression quils ont surgi spontanment
lintrieur dudit environnement5.

Dautre part intimement lie cette exaltation presque religieuse suscite par
la figure du leader il y a, pour certains de ceux qui se trouvent enferms dans la
cave, la conviction quils sont les porteurs dun impratif thico-politique. Feignant
dtre le messager de Tito, Marko charge Blacky dune mission illusoire: Il (m.n. Tito)
1

Ibidem.
Ibidem.
3
Emir KUSTURICA, Underground...cit.
4
Ibidem.
5
Robert Jay LIFTON, Thought Reform and the Psychologycit.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. X no. 4 2011

644

ANDREI POAM

a dit: salue Blacky de ma part et dis-lui dattendre. Je veux le garder pour la dernire
confrontation1.
Cette dernire confrontation naura jamais lieu. Tout au contraire, elle sera
remplace par une guerre qui noppose pas communistes dune part et nazis dautre
part, mais qui met face face les anciens habitants de ce quon a appel une Yougoslavie
sans yougoslaves2. Fraternit et unit, cest l le slogan dune Yougoslavie titiste
ayant perdu son pari le plus important: celui dun tat essayant dimposer une
identit nouvelle assimilant et subordonnant des identits particulires3. De cet
chec, Kusturica nous offre un des plus forts tmoignages: se rendant compte quil
a t menti par Marko, Yvan quitte lasile berlinois, rejoint son frre et le tue coups
de baston. La guerre ne sera pas une guerre totale jusqu ce que le frre ne tue pas
son propre frre: ce sont les derniers mots de Marko4. Cest avec lui que disparat
une triple illusion: celle dun discours qui se voulant trompeur finit par tre
dnonc dans sa ralit mensongre, celle dune autorit qui perdant son masque
se retrouve impuissante; et finalement, celle dun monde, celui de la cave qui ayant
perdu toute utilit implose.

Conclusion
Trois remarques finales simposent. La premire concerne la critique que jai
voque de manire sommaire au dbut du texte, selon laquelle Underground serait
un instrument de propagande. On voit maintenant, suite lanalyse des trois niveaux
dintelligibilit du film, que ce que Finkielkraut et Iordanova ne parviennent pas
saisir, cest que, avant tout, le film de Kusturica nest pas un film de propagande,
mais un commentaire cinmatographique sur la propagande. Le constat de Kusturica
se veut encore plus nuanc et, dune certaine manire, plus tragique que cela: il ne
sagit pas de raliser un film qui condamne les msaventures idologico-politiques
du cinma lpoque communiste. Plutt, Kusturica semble suggrer que, vouloir
chapper la sphre du pouvoir, toute uvre artistique finit par y revenir, y compris
celles qui se proposent de dnoncer les compromis politiques faits au nom de lart. En
matire dart, il ny a pas de hors-politique.
La deuxime remarque est lie la question du rapport entre fiction, histoire
et vrit. Certes, Marko Dren le dit de manire on ne saurait plus explicite: Lart
est un mensonge. Un grand mensonge. Nous sommes tous des menteurs un peu5.
Cette affirmation est, cependant, plus fine quelle nen a lair: il ne sagit pas de dire
que toute fiction est refus de la vrit et cart inscable par rapport la ralit. Au
contraire, le message de Dren semble tre que la fiction seule est capable de dnoncer
la seule vrit de lhistoire, savoir quil ny a pas de discours minemment vrai

Emir KUSTURICA, Undergroundcit.


Paul LENDVAI, Parcell, LIS, Yugoslavia without Yugoslavs: The Roots of the Crisis,
International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), vol. 67, no. 2, 1991, p. 252.
3
Sekulic DUSKO, Massey GARTH, Hodson RANDY, Who Were the Yugoslavs? Failed
Sources of a Common Identity in the Former Yugoslavia, American Sociological Review, vol. 59,
no. 1, 1994, p. 84.
4
Emir KUSTURICA, Undergroundcit.
5
Ibidem.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. X no. 4 2011

Il tait une fois un pays

645

sur le pass et que, de manire invitable, toute intelligence du pass est mle au
mensonge. Cest comme cela, par ailleurs, quil convient de comprendre le diagnostic
de Marc Ferro, selon lequel
le film de fiction peut tre plus vrai que le vrai parce que le choc quil peut
produire sur nous restitue peut-tre mieux les chocs quon a pu connatre en
histoire quun film documentaire plus loign1.

La troisime remarque, enfin, vise la relation temps/espace dans Underground. La


solution de Kusturica lorsquil sagit de saisir le sens du pass communiste, cest de
le traduire de manire symbolique en termes despace. Le temps rappropri devient,
ds lors, un temps emplac, signifi de manire mtonymique travers limage de la
cave. Ainsi, le sens du temps perdu suite lexprience communiste est celui dune
dure qui se trouve en dessous de nous-mmes: on ne peut dpasser les Underground
quen les traversant de nouveau.

1
Anna Claude AMBROISE-RENDU, Isabelle VEYRAT-MASSON, Entretien avec Marc
Ferro: Guerre et Images de Guerre, Le Temps des mdias, vol. 1, no. 4, 2005, p. 247.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. X no. 4 2011

646

ANDREI POAM

Romanian Political Science Review vol. X no. 4 2011

A Theoretical Excursus on the Concept of Political Art

647

A Theoretical Excursus on the Concept


of Political Art in Communism
and its Aftermath
MARINA ALINA ASAVEI
The aim of this article is to offer a conceptual clarification of political art, a
label generally applied to a wide diversity of art activities, situations and productions.
Moreover, political art is usually used as an umbrella term which accommodates both
arts which support the status quo and arts which criticize and abhor it. There is great
confusion concerning the question of what should be considered political in art, as
there is still a debate on what is political. Two points should be emphasized from the
beginning: first, when trying to answer the question of what is political in art, one
could argue that art is always political. Second, there is another theory which holds
that politics takes place only in political institutions and not in art1. In other words and
in the name of arts autonomy, art is only art and everything else is everything else.
My claim is that art is not always political and should be considered sometimes
as mere entertainment, as the expression of a deep private feeling or emotion (like
the aesthetic emotion in front of a sunset). There is art which is neutral to societys
political and social problems. As Nol Carroll suggestively argues, its potentially
politically pernicious to regard everything as political, because it takes the force out
of things that clearly are political2.
I argue that art is not necessarily political if it contains a message which is overtly
political. Moreover, art is political even if it does not convey a direct political message
but only indirectly calls our attention to social or political injustices and strives to
arouse viewers awareness of the mechanism of domination, turning him or her in a
conscious agent. In this sense, I think that some works of art are political in a more
accurate and narrow sense than others which are simply vulgre Tendenzkunst (vulgar
tendentious art or propaganda) and dont leave the possibility for flexibility both
in the production and reception of the so-called political art because their politics,
commitments and meanings are imposed from above. Their politics is an enforced
politics in which the deliberative stance of the artist/audience is totally disregarded.
Political art cannot be simply reduced to the status of a container for political slogans
because political arts main function, unlike propaganda art, is to act in a counterhegemonic manner. Thus, art which is accurately political is that art which opposes
the status quo of the moment both in communist regimes and in liberal democracies.
In order to understand what is the meaning given commonly to political art
by those that lived under the communist regimes in Eastern and Central Europe I
1
Marco MATINIELLO, Jean-Michel LAFLEUR, Ethnic Minorities Cultural and Artistic
Practices as Forms of Political Expression: A Review of the Literature and a Theoretical Discussion
on Music, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, vol. 34, no. 8, November 2008, p. 1195.
2
Nol CARROLL, interview with Ray Privett and James Kreul in Senses of Cinema, http://
www.sensesofcinema.com/2001/13/carroll/ (accessed 30.10.2011).

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

648

MARINA ALINA ASAVEI

have made an experiment. I have asked Romanian1 citizens: what does political art
stand for? I have to acknowledge that this question has been addressed to people
which are not really connoisseurs in art business, in the sense that they dont have a
professional interest in art. The (almost) unanimous answer was that political art was
the official art of communist regimes, art that depicted happy miners, peasants and,
of course, more often, the leader as a national hero. For the next question: Why is
this art political? most of the answers said that official art is political because it
served the party or the political power. They added that they did not like that type
of art because it was not true art but a lie and that they have never seen during
communism any art piece that was beautiful or that criticized the regime. Nevertheless,
most participants to the artworld make aesthetic judgments that do not necessarily
coincide with art theorists arguments, even if those art connoisseurs usually study
the premises and arguments people use to justify and classify things and activities
as beautiful, artistic, art and non-art. I have introduced the examples above
in order to illustrate the unidirectional understanding of political art among the nonprofessional art public from Central and Eastern Europe. They dont find the concept
of political art a contradiction in terms (as some art critics and aesthetics theorists)
because they dont struggle for an art definition; they understand political art as art
which is complicitous with the political power.
For the sake of the overall argument, a quick clarification is necessary: political
power can be understood in the sense defined by Steven Lukes2 as power over
(domination) the key aspect of power and the capacity to make other actors act against
their real interests. In this paradigm, power is the capacity to shape the preferences of
other actors misleadingly in order to reinforce ones domination. Nevertheless, this is
not the only possible or acceptable meaning of the idea of political power3 even if it is an
unavoidable part of it. Political theorists are eager to provide us with understandings
of political power which make the analytical distinction between political power and
power as domination. For example Peter Morriss published an audacious critique
of political power as domination. In his view power is to be understood as power
to affect outcomes or to achieve specific goals rather than power over in the sense of
domination. But, on the other hand, many times (even in liberal democracies where
political power is largely about collective action) power to can lead to domination,
something that Morriss seems to totally overlook. How is that possible? Power
resources, the resources that allow actors to act together in a collective action in
order to reach their desired political goals are unequally distributed. Then, placing

The intention of this article is to make neither a cross-country comparison regarding


East European citizens understanding of political art, nor a specific case study. The goal is to
critically discuss the normative implications of the commonly held view of political art as the
official art of the communist regime.
2
Steven LUKES, Power: A Radical View, Palgrave McMillan, London, 2005.
3
Michel Foucault is, for example, one of the most influential theorists of power. Power is a
procedure/technique which individuals can engage in. It is never monopolized by one center but
it circulates through a net-like organization. Power is not only negative but it is also productive
(not only power over but also power to): according to Foucault there is a power to fight oppression
when one sees it: The analysis, elaboration, and bringing into question of power relations and
the agonism between power relations and the intransitivity of freedom is a permanent political
task inherent in all social existence. Michael FOUCAULT, The Subject and Power, in James
D. FAUBION (ed.), Power, New York Press, New York, 2000, pp. 298-325.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

A Theoretical Excursus on the Concept of Political Art

649

inequality at the center of the definition of political power is the best way to recognize
that power to can lead to domination, which is a particular form of inequality1.
In Central and Eastern Europe political art was considered to be exclusively
official art, produced under the domination of political power of the moment and
which was meant only to reinforce that power. In what follows I will argue, contrary
to this common opinion, that the official art of totalitarian regimes is politically
irrelevant precisely because its forcefully committed stance, while the unofficial art,
mainly opposition art, is political art in the accurate sense precisely because of its nonimposed commitment to dissent.
After the fall of communism many official art pieces have been burned or
destroyed. For a long time after the fall of communism official art of the totalitarian
regimes was seen as a foreign element in the context of 20th century art. The works
of art created under totalitarianism have been hidden in the dark basements of
museums; in this way, it was underlined their total exclusion from the world of art.
Recently Boris Groys noticed that the official and unofficial art of the former Soviet
Union and other former Socialist states, for example, is largely excluded from the field
of institutionally recognized art, usually on moral grounds2. Obviously, the art of
totalitarian regimes (both official and unofficial) deserve more attention.

A Unique Style: Socialist Realism as Political Art


The communist ideologues used the formula political art in order to denote
Socialist Realism, the official canon of all art adopted in the Soviet Union in 1930.
In this view, Socialist Realism has been the only political art accepted and acceptable.
The ideologues of Socialist Realism did not see the unofficial art understood here
both as art that was directly confrontational to the regime, and purely aesthetic art as
political at all3. These art practices of opposition have been considered by the regime
as degenerate art forms but not as political4. In the former Soviet Union, partys
officials condemned, for example, the writings of the satirist Mikhail Zoshchenko,
accused of writing vulgar parodies on Soviet life. They also censured the poetess
Anna Akhmatova, who was charged with writing empty and non-political poetry5.
Creating non-political art was seen by the communist party as the artists big fault,
as a devil-may-care attitude and ideological indifference. The artists duty was to
disseminate the communist values:

See more on this issue in Daniel BELANDs article The Idea of Power and the Role of
Ideas, Political Studies Review, vol. 8, no. 2, May 2010, pp. 145-154.
2
Boris GROYS, Art Power, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2008.
3
For a different view see Caterina PREDA, Dictators and dictatorships: artistic expressions of
the political in Romania and Chile (1970s-1989), No pas nada?, Dissertation.com, Florida, 2009.
4
Igor Golomstock in his book Totalitarian Art supports the opposite idea, namely that because
totalitarian leaders assigned to art the role of ideological instrument they also considered as
dangerous any other artistic expression. The latter had to be eliminated because it was political.
Igor GOLOMSTOCK, Totalitarian Art in the Soviet Union, the Third Reich, Fascist Italy and the
Peoples Republic of China, Collins Harvill, London, 1991. My argument goes in the opposite
direction since my understanding of the political differs from Golomstocks.
5
Ann DEMAITRE, The Great Debate on Socialism Realism, The Modern Language Journal,
vol. 50, no. 5, 1966, p. 265.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

650

MARINA ALINA ASAVEI

Artists think that politics is the business of the government and the Central
Committee [] We demand that our comrades both as leaders in literary affairs
and writers, be guided by the vital force of the Soviet order its politics1.

Maybe this is one of the reasons why, long after the fall of communism, at the
level of collective mentality in Central and Eastern European countries, political art is
still understood only as the official art of the communist regimes.
With few exceptions, it is generally stated/accepted that Socialist Realism has its
roots in the Marxist theory of aesthetics. I am going to argue that Socialist Realism in
the form of the official canon of art in Soviet Union and its satellites is only partially
consistent with the logical development of Marxist aesthetic theory. Marxs comments
on literature emphasize the interrelationship between art and society and for him art
is an expression of social and economic substrate. He also mentions that literature may
be a vehicle for a particular ideology and he asks who writes literature, and for whom,
and why. Marx also mentioned that the political correctness of a literary work is not
equivalent to its artistic merit. In evaluating the artistic merit of a work, factors of
style, form and craftsmanship have to be taken into account. This aesthetic evaluation
is different from the mere identification with the socio-political content. As some art
theorists are quick to point out, there is no evidence in Marx and Engelss writings
on art such as Literature and Art in which art is considered a purely ideological tool.
Marx and Engels apparently separated the artistic merit from ideological purpose and
effectiveness. Moreover, they believed that political correctness is desirable but open
tendentiousness is to be avoided2. Paradoxically, at the same time they also enforce the
artists participation in social and political struggle as a commitment to the militant
proletariat: For some periods of time he has to suspend his private morality and
personal explorations of the universe for the sake of advancing collective justice and
history itself3.
Until the the Great Literary Debate which was centered on questions of
nature and functions of art within Proletkult as well as shortly afterwards, Marxist
aestheticians such as Georgii Plekhanov and Lev Trotsky among others tried to
combine the two Marxist views, that of the aesthete and of the agitator. Plekhanov
argued that the weightiness of content is the last factor which determines the merit
of an artistic work but, on the other hand, he repudiated the claim that the artist has a
duty to promote particular political objectiveness. In short: even if he privileged art
with a narrowly realistic and socially relevant nature, he believed that art was finally
inaccessible to external directive, and the less it was expressed in a logical and didactic
manner, the better4. Trotsky managed, to a degree unknown to Plekhanov, to separate
the artistic value from arts ideological content, but as a member of the revolutionary
government he stated that the state must apply a political, imperative and intolerant
standard to art, that it must censor overtly counter-revolutionary tendencies in art

Literaturnaia Gazeta, September 21, 1946, p. 83. My translation from Russian.


For more on this issue see R. J. MATHEWSON, The Positive Hero in Russian Literature,
2nd ed., Stanford Press, California, 1975, pp. 129-131.
3
Ibidem, p. 145.
4
Plekhanovs Marxist aesthetic theory is discussed in Margaret M. BULLITT, Toward
a Marxist Theory of Aesthetics: The Development of Socialist Realism in the Soviet Union,
Russian Review, vol. 35, no. 1, January 1976, pp. 57-62.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

A Theoretical Excursus on the Concept of Political Art

651

and forego a liberal policy of laissez-faire1. In other words the artist has the right
to create whatever (s)he likes if his/her work is not against the Revolution. On the
one hand he required from the artist a genuine revolutionary commitment, but on
the other hand he emphasized his respect for personal freedom of the artist because
art was not a vehicle for ideological education. At a first glance this is a paradoxical
position but, in fact, it echoes perfectly Marxs ambivalent stance (the autonomous
aesthetic component of art versus the artist as an individual wholly committed to the
militant proletariat).
After the 1920s Great Literary Debate, all Marxist considerations about the
artistic merit were thrown aside by Socialist Realist art theorists in the 1930s. Lenin
is now considered the aesthetician of Socialist Realism and not Plekhanov. Lenin was
not interested at all in the complicate issue of establishing the nature and functions
of art. Instead, he operated a reductionism: art must be immediately intelligible to
the masses and unilaterally correct ideologically; all the organizations engaged in
cultural activity must be penetrated with the spirit of the proletarian class struggle;
the political takes priority over the aesthetic and it does not matter if some artistic
devices, complexity of form, etc. are sacrificed; art must teach and inspire the masses
and must serve the party; it must approach only some aspects of reality, not all of
them (this is the so-called selectivity principle in Socialist Realism, according to which
the party dictates which aspects of reality should be represented in art productions
and which ones should not be addressed). In a nutshell, art is reduced to the mere
role of a source of ideological information and artists are reduced to a singleness of
aspirations, singleness of ideas, and singleness of aim2. In this new formulation of
the Socialist Realist canon, Marx and Engels were not even mentioned.
No wander then, that Socialist Realism was, and sometimes still is regarded as
an inferior genre. Those Socialist Realist productions which really respect the canon
and whose artistic value is due to the Socialist Realist style reduce indeed art to the
level of vulgar propaganda. Those art productions have been considered good art
by the party leaders only because of their Socialist Realist style. But on the other hand,
works of real artistic value cannot be disregarded in spite of their realistic style like
Dziga Vertov and Sergei Eisensteins movies and the whole avant-garde of the 1920s,
as, according to the social historian Eric Hobsbawm, until 1920 there was no serious
official attack on the avant-gardes. The communist party disapproved even of these
productions because their appeal to masses was negligible.
The argument used by Socialist Realist theorists was that art had to be realistic.
As a consequence of this credo, all imaginative art has been dismissed. The issue of
realism in the official art of totalitarian regimes has been intensively discussed in
various studies both in the Eastern bloc and in the Western art critique world. In the
first category, the official discourse stressed the artists obligation to reflect reality.
By reality they did not mean reality as it is, but as it was supposed to be. The
so-called official style of communist art is the result of avant-garde influences, rather
than a result of Realist influences3. Socialist Realism is not a type of Realism, because
1

Lev TROTSKY, Literature and Revolution, quoted in Margaret M. BULLITT, Toward


a Marxistcit., p. 65.
2
Karl RADEK, Contemporary World Literature and the Tasks of Proletarian Art, in
Problems of Soviet Literature, vol. 35, 1948, p. 9.
3
Although there are authors who consider that Socialist Realist canon imposed on art
during communist regimes is reminiscent of the 19th century Realism (like Igor Golomstock

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

652

MARINA ALINA ASAVEI

its truth is ideological, and in most cases reality itself is mystified. Socialist Realism
does not depict the common people and the working class as they really are, but as
heroes, comrades, and super humans. While Realism was defined as a protest
against official painting1, Socialist Realism was the official style of art in totalitarian
regimes. In other words, if reality was impossible to change then the perception of
reality had to be altered.
The contemporary reader of communist art, as Alla Efimova remarks, hardly
calls to mind any association with aesthetics of beauty2. But the rhetoric of Socialist
Realism claims that art must not merely instruct, or educate but also powerfully
attract. This statement speaks of an aesthetic intentionality that contradicts the view
according to which communist art was not conceived to be attractive but to tell
the truth.

Unofficial Art: Two Forms of Opposition Art


Nonetheless, Igor Golomstock is right when he argues that not everything
created in the art field under a totalitarian regime could be explained through a
single partys monopoly3. Not all art and visual productions that have been created
during totalitarianism can be defined as official art. In the case of communist art,
autonomous productions have been a social and political strategy by which artists
both engaged with and differentiated themselves from their contemporary field of
cultural politics. Autonomous art in a totalitarian political regime means in my
approach the art which resisted Realist Socialisms constraints. Autonomous art is
not used here in the sense in which sometimes it has been used, as art for arts sake
for example. Unofficial art means not only autonomous art, or vanguard art, but
also political art, art made politically. Autonomous art is still socially and politically
critical. Both hermetic and protest art converged in the refusal of the status quo. There
is a politics of autonomous art and the underground artists of totalitarian regimes
knew how to make politics out of arts autonomy. The fact that art is autonomous
does not mean that it is not mixed with politics or that it is pure art. Autonomous
artworks are not political in the lax sense imposed by the communist propaganda
machine, but on the contrary, their political meaning is determined by their autonomy.
As Adorno would say, that was not a time for political art but politics had migrated
into autonomous art4, because the official committed art was only faithfully
reproducing the directives of those in power without any deliberation or agonistic
political dynamism compared to the freedom enjoyed by artists in both deliberative
and agonistic liberal democracies. The unofficial artworks manifested their politics
argued), I consider that Socialist Realism is not a version of Realism at all. It is not realistic at all
because Social Realist artists reflect what the political ruler decrees reality to be.
1
After a decade of participation in the official salons, Gustave Courbet opened a one-man
exhibition in 1855 to protest against the official painting (at that time represented by academic
painters as Ingres, Delacroix, etc.). Courbet called his exhibition Realism.
2
Alla EFIMOVA, To Touch on the Raw. The Aesthetic Affections of Socialist Realism,
Art Journal, vol. 56, no. 1, 1997, p. 72.
3
Igor GOLOMSTOCK, Totalitarian Art...cit.
4
Theodor ADORNO, Commitment, in Andrew ARTO, Eike GEBHARDT (eds.), Essential
Frankfurt School Reader, Continuum, New York, 1982, p. 318.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

A Theoretical Excursus on the Concept of Political Art

653

through various strategies of opposition: from the overtly anti-communist critique


to the ways in which they indirectly opposed the official canon of art production,
interpretation and distribution.
Two examples are useful so as to understand this variation; one for each category
of opposition political art. The first example is Ion Brldeanus direct opposition.
His political collages are examples of overtly anti-communism and express his antiCeauescu stance. His work openly criticizes and mocks the political power: the
dictatorial couple, the partys requirements etc. Interestingly enough, Brldeanus
art is still confrontational because it makes fun with a lot of cynicism of the main
important communist political leaders. His art production is the best example that the
philosopher and art historian Boris Groys was (half) wrong about when he stated that
any political notion of art created under liberal capitalist democracies is impossible
because politics is annihilated by the laws of the art market1. He claimed that political
art (in the truly2 sense political) is only the unofficial art realized during totalitarian
regimes and all the so-called political art produced in a free art market are not truly
political because the dominating art discourse identifies art with art market and
remains blind to any art that is produced and distributed by any mechanism other
than the market. Brldeanus art made public after the fall of communism proves
that art can be truly political even in the era of free market, at least in what regards its
production. But Groys is only half wrong because even if Brldeanus work has been
produced totally outside, or behind the art market and its discourse, it is still the art
market and its discourse that disseminated his artistic production.
The second example is that of the Czech artist Miroslav Tichy described by
Michael Hoppen as follows:
A student at the Academy of Arts in Prague, Tichy left following the
communist overthrow of 1948. Unwilling to subordinate to the political system
he spent some eight years in prison and psychiatric wards for no reason, other
than he was different and considered subversive. Upon his release he became an
outsider, occupying his time by obsessively taking photographs of the women of
his home town, using homemade cameras constructed from tin cans, childrens
spectacle lenses, rubber bands, scotch tape and other junk found on the streets3.

The curator Roman Buxbaum who discovered Tichy mentioned that after the
communist takeover in 1948, the rules of the Art Academy were changed completely.
Instead of drawing women models, the students were forced to draw workers in
overalls. Tichy refused to draw them. Tichys opposition is not as straightforward as
Brldeanus. Some art critics dont find his art political at all even if nobody denies
that he was a political dissident since he was persecuted for more than twenty years
by the communist police, hospitalized by force in mental institutions and treated as

Boris GROYS, Art Powercit., pp. 5-7.


Groys uses the term truly political art, while Im using accurate political art. He
wants to argue for the power of art outside the art market, while my intention is to conceptually
clarify what it means for art to be political.
3
Unique Photographs previously Unseen in the UK at Michael Hoppen Gallery, in
http://www.artdaily.com/index.asp?int_sec=11&int_new=37704&int_modo=1; http://www.
saatchi-gallery.co.uk/blogon/art_news/miroslav_tichy_at_michael_hoppen_gallery (accessed
12.10 2011).
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

654

MARINA ALINA ASAVEI

an ideology freak and adversary. I consider his art as truly political, in spite of these
considerations. He did not overtly criticize the regime through his photographs and
paintings with naked or semi-naked women, even if he criticized the regime very
harshly by refusing the official canon and preferring the mental institution instead
of an artistic carrier. His resistance resides in his willingness to live and create an art
which is free of any ideological constraints. The women in bathing suits or in negligees
are not what Tichys art is all about. His art is motivated by his visceral and painful
struggle to live and to see freely and without distortion the two irreconcilable
worlds: that imposed from above and that which he saw naturally, through the lens
of his improvised camera. His photographs are documents of resistance in the sense
that they capture the normality of human life with its romanticism, eroticism and
innocence under the pressure of an abnormal political struggle which controlled every
aspect of human life: condemned nudity, the length of women dresses was a matter
of state regulation, sexuality was de-eroticized being reduced to reproduction which
was itself supervised by the state, etc. All visual art production represented only a
half-naked worker or peasant, always a male figure, building socialism as a proper
New Man. Tichys art does exactly the opposite: it re-eroticizes and re-appropriates
the feminine body. He refused to see it through the lens of motherhood and he
refuses to see it as a revolutionary comrade.
All in all, these unofficial productions are not the result of a forced committed
stance. Their dedication to a logic of opposition is not imposed and it is not controlled
from above. In this sense they are accurately political art works and my claim is that
only opposition art is particularly politically relevant. The official art of totalitarian
regimes is politically irrelevant in spite of its political character emphasized by
ideologues and precisely because of its compellingly committed stance. This can be
applied to art which wants to be political in any society not only in totalitarian societies
but also in liberal democracies. Namely that, the noisier and pressing the demands,
the more open the possibility of affecting political change disintegrates. Commitment
in itself in the case of opposition art remains politically polyvalent, while propaganda
of the official art has no flexibility. The official arts imposed committed stance leaves
no room for deliberative thinking, for debate and no doubt for what the work may say.
Obviously, the politics involved in the official Socialist Realist art (or in Benettons
art posters) is not the same with the politics of Boteros Abu Ghraib paintings. In other
words, Boteros art is political in a radical different sense than Vera Ignatyevna Mukhinas
Worker and Kolkhoz Woman is. I would go even further to claim that Boteros art is an
accurately political art because it is an open-ended art in terms of its meaning and
significance. The viewer/spectator has the liberty to see whatever he/she desires to
see in the Abu Ghraib paintings: the cartoonist style of human misery, the relationship
between victims and perpetrators, the cruelty of human nature, and so on. Even
if Botero intended to say something more specific, like to express his opposition
regarding the Iraqi war, the open-endedness of his art pieces does not chain it down
to the status of a mere container of a political message. Almost any political artist asks
What do I want with my art? or Where do I stand?, because this is part of doing
art politically: to decide in favor of something without trying to impose on the others
your own decision1. Even if, as a political artist, you dont try to impose your politics

1
This couldnt be argued about Vera Mukhinas Worker and Kolkhoz Woman, which does
exactly the opposite: it imposes to the viewer what he or she has to understand.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

A Theoretical Excursus on the Concept of Political Art

655

on others, this does not mean that you are not taking sides. Even if you decide to
withdraw from the artworld this is still a political gesture and it means that you still
take sides.
Socialist Realism, the unique concept imposed on the cultures of the Eastern
European bloc, was not directly integrated in the local art-worlds although it generated
many works of compliance solicited by political propaganda, in an attempt to create
its own mythology. Most of these cultures rejected it when it became a jeopardizing
factor in the genesis of certain original phenomena; these are relevant precisely as
phenomena of opposition. The role of the so-called underground, alternative,
or apartment-art1 cannot be disregarded. These art productions, truly political art
pieces, accompanied official art of that time even if they went underground and have
never been exhibited in mainstream art galleries, they circulated among only small
circles of friends, and could not be sold or bought etc.
It is worth mentioning that totalitarian art theorists manifested an overt
disapproval for photography. Many unofficial artists used photography as a tool
of making art politically in order to oppose the normal reality to reality as it is
supposed to be. For example, the Romanian artist Ion Grigorescu, an unofficial artist
of Ceauescus era used to mix enlarged photographs with painting. The officials did
not accept this art as he states:
It was a general conception according to which the medium of painting
is very different from the medium of photography In painting the artist has a
role, has a mission, because he transforms reality. Reality is not a regular one
because art has a high scope in intervening in reality. In their interpretation,
reality becomes more real. In painting the artist strives to find his own territory.
In the case of photography the author is disintegrated or in other words the
photography explodes the author. In a communist reading the photography
which is mixed with painting is ideologically dangerous because a document
(the photography) is distorted by the intervention of the hand of the artist2.

Ion Grigorescus political art rejected the canon of realism as imposed from
above and, instead of it he produced works of neo-documentary realism. His works
are courageous documentations of peoples way of life under communist rule, in
which reality is not disguised or mystified but it is documented as brutal as it was.
The deviation from the canon is a political gesture. Ion Grigorescu himself defined his
style as Realism which does not impose to the real a style3.
Another example of opposition art under communism is Corneliu Babas
sculpture entitled The Miner. Babas miner was initially sculpted in white stone, his
eyes being empty like in Greek statues. Comitetul de ndrumare (The Commission of
Guidance), a communist committee which decided whether an artwork was or was
not clear enough, considered Babas miner too white and too sleepy. That was
not a politically correct work of art. They said that this inappropriateness with the real
miner cannot be permitted and intervened in the sculpture perforating its eyes with

1
Apartment art is an underground art movement which is an anti-mass-consumer
manifestation of art practice. The artists transform their apartments and homes into private galleries
in which they exhibit their art. The latter remains totally unnoticed to the official artworld.
2
My interview with Ion Grigorescu, Bucharest, 14 April 2007.
3
See Ion GRIGORESCU, Artistul Realist, Arta, no. 12, 1973, p. 22.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

656

MARINA ALINA ASAVEI

a drill and painting the miner in black. According to one of Babas colleagues, the
painter Dan Hatmanu, the modifications were made without asking Baba whether he
accepted these changes in his work. The need to be politically correct dominated art,
conversation, both public and private, and behaviour. If you complained about being
hungry then you became a state enemy. As Ion Grigorescu suggests artists during
communism:
Had to become their own secret police and to depict the heroes and the
dreams of communism a painter, one of my colleagues, painted a huge piece
of meat and a knife. He wanted to sell this painting in a special shop called
consignaie1, but in order to be sold every painting had to receive at that time,
back in the 70s, a signature from an official responsible with art. This painting
did not receive an approval to be sold because it could have been interpreted as
a need for food, as a lack of meat in Romanians alimentation2.

The official canon of art did not prohibit the freedom of form in art making.
The artists were given the greatest possible freedom to choose whatever form they
wanted for expressing their views, from New Expressionism to Op art. But the
freedom was only that of form as long as they did not express through that form
politically objectionable opinions. As far as we accept Shustermans argument
according to which aesthetic censorship could be more beneficial than harmful to
art we could argue that generally, a work of art is aesthetically objectionable only if
it is aesthetically bad3. In communist regimes the situation is different: a work of art
can be objectionable in spite of its aesthetic qualities. The only critical standard for
evaluating any artwork was wholly based upon ideological criteria. As Victor Terras
points out, the official canon narrows the scope of art, an obvious loss without any
apparent compensation4.
Thus, art is a means to many ends and reducing it to the status of only conveying
an imposed political slogan makes it lose its artistic quality and politically irrelevant.
Nobody really takes it seriously. This does not mean that official art has been always
aesthetically bad. In order to be considered good, relevant or appealing a piece
of art should disclose to its public much more than craftsmanship.
In totalitarianism, art which is accurately political does not simply reflect the
realities of the moment. The strategies that the political artist chooses to adopt
construct a particular intervention into the political struggle. It is above all a critical
gesture as opposed to merely acquiescent commentary. Political art production does
not stop with the fall of totalitarian regimes. Neither did art which is politically
and socially concerned and involved appear in the 20th centurys totalitarianisms;
actually it existed long time before these political regimes and it did not stop after
their fall either.

1
Consignaia is a kind of shop in which Romanians used to bring old and used objects or
hand made products in order to be sold usually for little money.
2
My interview with Ion Grigorescu, Bucharest, 14 April 2007.
3
Richard SHUSTEMAN, Aesthetic Censorship: Censoring Art for Arts Sake, The Journal
of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, vol. 43, no. 2, 1984, pp. 171-180.
4
Victor TERRAS, Phenomenological Observations on the Aesthetic of Socialist Realism,
The Slavic and East European Journal, vol. 23, no. 4, 1979, p. 448.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

A Theoretical Excursus on the Concept of Political Art

657

Political Art after Communism (in Liberal Democracies)


After the collapse of Soviet communism followed the process of integration of the
Eastern bloc countries into the world market and their transition to liberal democracy.
This process brought with it some familiar problems as one of the characters from
Kusturicas movie Underground (1995) would say about capitalism economy a
catastrophe!. To various degrees this process of adhesion of CEE countries to Western
capitalism has been painful. In the movie Two or Three things about Activism (2008)
many people complain about the lack of social and welfare securities:
We have now a lot of consumer goods available on the market, we have
freedom of speech but we dont have money to buy those goods and we have
no available and secure jobs. We are living under very stressful conditions, as
never before what happens if I lose my job tomorrow and the landlord will
kick me out? 1.

In the course of transition from communism to democracy, some countries


succeeded in adopting the political system of liberal democracy while others
implemented patterns of democracy which are not fully liberal2. The answer from the
West came very promptly. In a nutshell, the impression was that these people from the
former bloc were not ready yet for self-determination:
The belief was that the Soviet system had been a prison of beliefs, of
nations, of free thought and association, of enterprise. It had: but the prisoners
had in many cases known nothing else but prison life. Like old trusties, many
like it, or at least found it impossible to adapt to the loss of confinement3.

Many artistic voices in the East started to condemn the hegemony of capitalism
in spite of Fukuyamas suggestion that the latter was the only socio-economic system
that worked.
Political art from both communist regimes and liberal democracy is similar, but
this does not mean that relevant differences cannot be highlighted. While the political
art of communist regimes remained mainly outside the official art institutions being
mostly an apartment-art type, in liberal democracies critical-political art tends to be
institutionalized. A very interesting phenomenon, known as the institutionalization
of dissent, started in the 80s: the political, opposition art is gentrified by the
mainstream culture and by its institutions. What at the beginning was intended to
be critical suddenly becomes a pretended mainstream. This is not such a big
surprise since the enemy looks familiar, being the hand that feeds the contemporary
opposition artists. As Lucy Lippard honestly puts it,
we were picketing the people we drank with and lived off. We were making
art in a buyers market but not a consumers market. We were full of mixed

1
From the counter-documentary Two or Three things about Activism. Directed by Joanne
RICHARDSON, Cluj-Napoca Romania, A D Media Production, 2008.
2
Michael McFAUL, Lessons from Russias Protracted Transition from Communist Rule,
Political Science Quarterly, vol. 114, no. 1, 1999, p. 103.
3
John LLOYD, Transition in East, Financial Times, December 24, 1994, p. 4.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

658

MARINA ALINA ASAVEI

feelings, because we wanted to be considered workers as everyone else and at


the same time we were not happy when we saw our products being treated like
everyone elses, because deep down we know as artists we are special1.

But in spite of this tendency, there is still room for true dissent even if these
gifts of resistance are not always visible because of their marginality. The art
theorist Gregory Sholette appropriately describes the emergence of these aesthetics
of resistance in the form of militant theatre, counterfeit corporations, interventionist
research portals, knitting networks, pie throwers, ninjas, snake, charmers, river rafters,
amateur scientists2.
Political art of liberal democratic regimes continues to co-exist with the art of
a globalized mainstream artworld which is fully developed providing distribution
systems which integrate artists into the global market. But if an established distribution
system rejects what it considers to be inconvenient art pieces both on political and
aesthetic grounds, there will always be possible to organize a Salon des Refuss more
or less fully developed in providing distribution. In other words, artists can choose
various distribution systems, not necessarily the gallery or the art magazine, which
serve them best or constrain them least. Artists who are interested in the political
effectiveness of their work would be rather content that their public is not the typical
public of contemporary art galleries which has only a professional interest in art3. In
liberal democracies, political art does not cease to be oppositional and critical. The
art which is called political but only reaffirms the dominating art market or the
dominating power over something is political only in a lax and too general sense. It is
difficult to criticize the art market while you are a proeminent part of it. On the other
hand, the separation between art market and opposition art is not always a radical
one because artists sought to express varying degrees of opposition and autonomy
toward the marketplace4
Following this line of thought, it is worth mentioning Boris Groys considerations.
The Russian author states in Art Power, that Islamist videos and posters functioning in
the context of the international anti-globalist movement are political creations made
outside the dominating art market, and which are overlooked by the institutions
of the art market because this art is not a commodity5. But I dont think that this is
enough for art to be truly political. The non-commodity status of the art piece is, to
some degree, a condition for art to be accurately political but, on the other hand, this
is not a general rule. In some contexts even the commodified art pieces preserve the
political, oppositional value. For instance, Rap music which deals with problems of
discrimination, poverty and violence may remain in some contexts a powerful tool for

Lucy LIPPARD, Trojan Horses: Activist Art and Power, in Sally EVERETT (ed.), Art
Theory and Criticism, McFarland Pub., Jefferson NC, 1983, p. 191.
2
Gregory SHOLETTE, Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture, Pluto
Press, London, 2011, p. 188.
3
According to Howard Becker, 70% of the visitors to a typical contemporary art gallery
have a professional interest in art. Howard BECKER, Art Worlds, University of California
Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, 1982, p. 106.
4
Gregory SHOLETTE, Dark Mattercit, p. 44.
5
Boris GROYS, Art Powercit, p. 9.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

A Theoretical Excursus on the Concept of Political Art

659

Afro-Americans to express their anxiety and difference even though sometimes it is


mass commercialized through MTV and other channels of consumerism1.

Conclusions
In conclusion, artworks which are accurately political share similar features both
in totalitarian and in liberal democratic regimes: opposition, critique, appraisal, giving
a voice to the oppressed and neglected. Contemporary political artists, through their
artistic practices, strive to question the capitalist hegemony exactly as the oppositional
artists of totalitarian regimes have questioned the Nazi and Communist authority
in spite of so many voices claiming that art had lost its critical power after the fall
of totalitarianism, because any form of critique is automatically neutralized by the
capitalist order. Democratic politics is not based only on right-left wing decisions
taken rationally after public deliberation but it is based on pluralistic antagonisms
rather than on rational consensus2. For some political thinkers such as Chantal Mouffe,
Ernesto Laclau, or Giorgio Agamben, democratic politics has to be understood in
its antagonistic dimension if it is to be understood at all. But what does it mean an
antagonistic democratic politics? Chantal Mouffe is eager to explain it:
What is at stake in what I call antagonistic/agonistic struggle, which
I see as the core of a vibrant democracy, is the very configuration of power
relations around which a given society is structured. It is a struggle between
opposing hegemonic projects which can never be reconciled rationally. An
agonistic conception of democracy acknowledges the contingent character of
the hegemonic politico-economic articulations which determine the specific
configuration of a society at a given moment3.

This antagonistic understanding of democratic societies clearly rejects the


possibility of any rational consensus. In the political space which for Habermas is
a public sphere there is possible no deliberation aiming at a rational consensus.
All we have there instead is a plurality of antagonisms. For Mouffe, the rational
consensus, seen as a regulative idea, is no more than a conceptual impossibility. In
real politics people dont have time for debates in the public space in order to gain
a universal consensus. Their antagonistic conflicts remain vividly vibrant under the
appearance of a liberal rational consensus. What lies behind this empty form are in
fact exactly these antagonistic conflicts. In other words, even if one formally accepts

1
For more details about the way in which Rap groups accept to soften their message
for reaching a global audience as an effect of commercialization, remaining at the same time
opposition artists, see T. ROSE, Black Noise. Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America,
Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, 1994.
2
For the deliberative democracy model see for example Amy GUTMANN, Dennis
THOMSON, Democracy and Disagreement, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press,
Cambridge, London, 1996; John RAWLS, The Idea of an Overlapping Consensus, Oxford
Journal of Legal Studies, vol. 7, no. 1, 1987, pp. 1-25. For the antagonistic/agonistic model of
democracy see Chantal MOUFFE, Artistic Activism and Agonistic Spaces, Art and Research,
vol. 1, no. 2, Summer 2007, p. 7.
3
Chantal MOUFFE, Artistic Activismcit., p. 7.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

660

MARINA ALINA ASAVEI

and respects the tyranny of majority and its so-called laws based on a rational
and consensual basis, still this consensus cannot eradicate ones true beliefs. Ones
antagonistic feelings cannot be simply removed or replaced by a harmonious and
rational consensus, even if one formally adheres to the latter. For the moment it is
enough to point out the unveiling power of political/critical art which tends to make
visible what the dominant consensus tends to obliterate and finally eradicate. Jacques
Rancire has introduced the distinction between politics (as a space of dissensus) and
the police (as a space of consensus) showing that politics has to do with making visible
what the dominant consensus tends to obscure1.
Both totalitarianism and liberal democracy struggled to hide their incapacity
to fulfill individuals basic needs like food and shelter, and this concealment is
ideologically motivated by the fact that there is no place for hunger in the best socioeconomic system that works. But hunger is made visible in art both in communism,
a huge piece of pork meat depicted on canvas was refused to be sold in the art shops
of that time as Grigorescu recalled, and in liberal democracies, a plate was painted
over with the message: A poor man has no friends HUNGER and exhibited at
the Istanbul biennale of Contemporary Art (September 2011) without provoking too
much appreciation. Economic growth is consensually desired and acclaimed as a very
advantageous situation for all the members of society but behind this hegemonic
consensus there are/critical art discourses such as the recent movies Lilja 4-ever
(Lukas Moodysson, 2002), Mandragora (1997), and Not Angels, but Angels (1994) (both
directed by Wiktor Grodecki), which critically and sarcastically explore how money
and consumer goods dominate society after the fall of communism leading meanwhile
to the growth of prostitution and human decadence. Art can greatly contribute at
illustrating the antagonistic dimension of the political in liberal democracies. Artistic
practices still play a critical role in society. The aesthetic strategies of counter-cultures
could question the dominant hegemony. Whether this critique is effective or not is
another discussion.

1
Jacques RANCIRE, Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics, Continuum, London, New
York, 2010.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

The Changing Face of the Sacrificial Romanian Woman

661

The Changing Face of the Sacrificial


Romanian Woman in Cinematographic
Discourses
FLORENTINA ANDREESCU
Overview
This article, using insight from Lacanian psychoanalysis, identifies the Romanian
female ideal as it is constructed and positioned within the structure of fantasy in one
of the most representative Romanian myths, Craftsman Manole, and further traces how
the identified ideal persists or changes within the cinematic stories produced within
various forms of political, economic and social organizations. My research shows that
in the Romanian case, the stability of the social order implies the females acceptance
of a sacrificial role. The female ideal is positioned in the structure of fantasy in such a
way that it needs to perform sacrifice in the name of the social authority. This research
argues that even though the female ideal changes along with changes in discourse,
its position within the national structure of fantasy remains constant. I hold that the
national structure of fantasy represents the basic way in which a society understands
freedom, pleasure, and its specific connection to the Other1. The main source of this
research is film. Film is addressed as a system of signs charged with discursive meaning
and as a form of fantasy. Films clearly portray the main discourse of a society, while
making evident the specific national structure of fantasy2.
It is important to undergo such a study for a better understanding of the present
challenges that Romanian women encounter, such as a striking absence of a feminist
movement. Furthermore, understanding the present Romanian female identity is only
possible if we pay attention to the past, tracing changes and continuities. Even though it
uses films as its main arena of investigation, this study is deeply political since the female
ideal portrayed in films includes political ideologies and other social constructions,
while the process of identification itself is constitutive of socio-political life.
Following the ideas put forward by Benedict Anderson3 and Michael Billig4, this
research stresses the importance of the process within which ordinary people continue
to imagine or represent themselves as an abstract national community. Anderson5
holds that all communities larger than primordial villages of face-to-face contact are
imagined, and that communities are to be distinguished solely by the style in which

1
Florentina ANDREESCU, The Changing Face of the Other in Romanian Films, Nationalities Papers, vol. 39, no. 1, 2011, p. 77.
2
Ibidem.
3
Benedict R. OG ANDERSON, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread
of Nationalism, Verso, London, 2006.
4
Michael BILLIG, Banal Nationalism, Sage, London, 1995.
5
Benedict R. OG ANDERSON, Imagined Communitiescit.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

662

FLORENTINA ANDREESCU

they are imagined. In line with these ideas, I argue that community belonging is
created in part by shared coordinates of fantasy. Similar fantasy coordinates structure
national stories such as myths, novels and films1. There is a co-constituted relationship
between the structure of fantasy and the stories present within a national space, where
the various stories shape and reinforce the structure of fantasy, while the structure of
fantasy functions like a map which guides the organization of the commonplaces
of a story vis--vis each other. This process produces a similarity in understanding
the world, specifically notions of happiness, desire, pain, freedom and the Other. In
this sense the concept of national borders indicates that the sphere of a personality
has found a limit according to the national fantasy coordinates. The boundary in this
sense is the crystallization or spatial expression of specific psychological limitation2.
In my analysis I engage with the ideas specific to Lacanian psychoanalysis within
which the subject is no longer, as in traditional psychology, a unified collection of
thoughts and feelings, but is de-centered, marked by an essential split. Lacan3
refers to the new concept of the subject as: lacking, fading, alienated, marked
by an essential lack of being, split, and possessed of an empty center4. Lacan
stresses that the split subject is formed within three registers that, he argues, are
tangible or that flush in one another: Real, Imaginary and Symbolic. The Imaginary
register includes the field of fantasies and images5. The Symbolic register is concerned
with the function of symbols and symbolic systems, including social and cultural
symbolism and is the place of the Other6. The Other represents the locus of truth and
meaning, the source of authority. This type of authority is constructed in the name
of the symbolic locus, a linguistic source that finds expression in the actual person
that embodies this authority7. It is the locus where the signifying chain emerges and
where the subject is constituted8. The authority is manifested through language and
in images and marks individuals by their own individuality, attaches them to their
own identity, and imposes a law of truth which the individual must recognize and
which others must recognize in them9. The third Lacanian register, the Real designates
everything that exists unbeknownst to the subject, it is that which is impossible to
symbolize. The Real when experienced is best described as episodic interruptions
into the other two registers, interruptions that are traumatic10. For Lacan explanation
of the Real is always in terms of the impossible, the Real is that which is impossible to

Florentina ANDREESCU, The Changing Facecit, p. 77.


Georg SIMMEL, David FRISBY, Mike FEATHERSTONE, Simmel on Culture Selected
Writings, Sage Publications, London, 1997, pp. 142-143.
3
Jacques LACAN, Jacques-Alain MILLER, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Norton, New York,
1988 and Jacques LACAN, Bruce Fink BRUCE (eds.), Ecrits: the First Complete Edition in English,
W.W. Norton & Co, New York, 2006.
4
Bice BENVENUTO, Roger KENNEDY, Jacques LACAN, The Works of Jacques Lacan: An
Introduction, St. Martins Press, New York, 1986, p. 18.
5
Ibidem, p. 54.
6
Ibidem, p. 81.
7
John BORNEMAN, Death of the Father: An Anthropology of the End in Political Authority,
Berghahn Books, New York, 2004, p. 16.
8
Romulo LANDER, Judith FILC, Subjective Experience and the Logic of the Other, Other
Press, New York, 2006, p. 53.
9
Michel FOUCAULT, The Subject and Power, Critical Inquiry, vol. 8, no. 4, 1982, p. 781.
10
Sean HOMER, Jacques Lacan, Routledge Critical Thinkers, London, 2005, pp. 83-84.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

The Changing Face of the Sacrificial Romanian Woman

663

bear1. Fantasy is a window to the Real. It permits access to the Real under controlled
conditions, conditions that effectively protect us from the Real while allowing access
to a colonized, tamed Real2. According to Lacan, fantasy tends to follow fix coordinates
formed early in life and hard to alter later on. The structure of fantasy predisposes one
to a specific connection to the Other and to a distinct way of addressing desire within
fantasy scenarios.
In my discussion of the female ideal I refer to the logic of the mirror phase,
the process in which the individual recognizes himself or herself as a reflection in
images and language. This reflection forms an ideal exterior to the individual, but
nevertheless accepted as self. This idealized self can never be attained as it will always
remain an exterior, a fixed and rigid construct within the Symbolic and Imaginary.
However this construct both fascinates and alienates, creating a strong tendency
within the individual to embody the ideal3. By accepting an ideal, subjects enter into
ideology and become subjects to the constraints of the social order. This process,
which Louise Althusser calls the ideological interpellation of the subject, involves
concrete individual misrecognizing themselves as subjects by taking up a socially
given identity and seeing themselves in this identity. Acting through the ideal and
within the symbolic order provides an illusion of completeness in both ourselves and
in what we perceive4.

The Female Ideal in Myth


The leading Romanian literary critic George Clinescu considers Craftsman
Manole (Meterul Manole), The Lamb (Mioria), Traian and Dochia (Traian i Dochia) and
The One Who Flies (Zburtorul) as most representatives Romanian myths5. My analysis
focuses on Craftsman Manole, more specifically on the version of the myth presented
in a ballad form, published by Vasile Alecsandri in Balade adunate i ndreptate (1852).
The main theme of the ballad, the walled-up wife is widely reported throughout
the Balkans. In Serbia, it has the title of The Building of Skadar, in Hungary, it is often
called Clement Mason, and in Greece, it is The Bridge of Arta. If we were to add the
numerous Hungarian, Romanian, Serbian, and Albanian versions to the Greek and
Bulgarian texts, we would deal with more than seven hundred versions6.
The walled-up wife story clearly reveals the position of the female ideal within
the Romanian structure of fantasy. The Craftsman Manole myth talks about the building
of Curtea de Arge, a Romanian Orthodox monastery, at the request of the King of
1
Madan SARUP, Jacques Lacan, Modern cultural theorists, University of Toronto Press,
Toronto, 1992, p. 104.
2
Ed PLUTH, Signifiers and Acts: Freedom in Lacans Theory of the Subject, State University of
New York Press, Albany, 2007, p. 88.
3
Hasmet M.ULUORTA, Welcome to the All-American Fun House: Hailing the
Disciplinary Neo-liberal Non-subject, Millennium, vol. 36, no. 2, 2007, p. 58.
4
Todd MCGOWAN, The Real Gaze: Film Theory After Lacan, SUNY Series in Psychoanalysis
and Culture, State University of New York Press, Albany, 2007, pp. 2-3.
5
George CLINESCU, Al. PIRU, Istoria literaturii romne: de la origini pn in prezent,
Minerva, Bucureti, 1982, pp. 56-60.
6
Alan DUNDES, Simon J. BRONNER, The Meaning of Folklore: the Analytical Essays of Alan
Dundes, Utah State University Press, Logan, 2007, pp. 110-111.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

664

FLORENTINA ANDREESCU

Wallachia. In the story the work done by Manole and other nine masons during the day
was mysteriously destroyed over night, making the monastery impossible to build. In
a dream Manole was advised that if he truly wanted the walls to survive the night, he
had to wall in the first wife or sister to arrive next day at dawn bringing food to her
husband or brother. The first woman to approach the building site was Manoles wife,
Ana. Upon realizing it, Manole falls to his knees and begs God to send waters to fill
the river to overflowing and to send a wind that would bend the trees and overturn
the mountains, in order for his wife to return from her path. Yet nothing within or
without natures boundaries swayed her from her path1. Anas commitment to her
role of a wife led to her being entombed alive within the walls of the monastery.
The reading of the ballad can come from at least two distinct perspectives: one
that of the victim, the wife who is immured, and the second that of the male builder2.
I argue that the story of the womans body buried inside the monasterys walls, as
well as the narrative of Anas suffering, exploitation and sacrificial death, are telling
details that emerge as metaphors for the gendered national life3. Anas body is used to
hold together the architectural creation. In this act her body becomes the body of the
nation. The woman is trapped in the walls built at the request of the king, embodying
here the Other, or the source of social authority and morality. By participating within
the law and obeying it, Manole shares the power of the social order and wields this
power over Ana. The repeated destruction of the monastery alludes to the invasion
of the Real within the social order, exposing its inconsistency. Building the grandiose
monastery aims at strengthening the power of the social order, as it would stand as a
testimony of the power of the king.
The ballad portrays a feminine ideal that women in Romania are encouraged to
embody. The ideal is that of a sacrificial being that is expected to experience pleasure
in her sacrifice, for it promises her the acceptance of the social authority.

The Female Ideal in Communism


In the films produced during communism we can identify the similar positioning
of the female ideal within the structure of fantasy. Women are rarely the main
character or protagonist, with a few exceptions represented by The Premiere (Mihai
Constantinescu, 1976), Angela Keeps Going (Lucian Bratu, 1981), The White Lace Dress
(Dan Pia, 1989) as well as the films directed by Malvina Urianu. The main character
is overwhelmingly male while the plot is generally driven forward by a certain request
of the social order to which the man must comply. This compliance affects the life of
the women he is associated with. Furthermore these women are expected to embrace
the changes resulting from the manifestation of males agency at the request of the
socialist state. The cinematic stories show that any attempt to manifest agency by
refusing or questioning the role of a sacrificial being renders a woman immoral or an
aberration of femininity.
1

Sharon KING, Beyond the Pale: Boundaries in the Monastirea Argesului, Alan DUNDES
(ed.), The Walled-up Wife, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, London, 1996, p. 97.
2
Alan DUNDES, Simon J. BRONNER, The Meaning of Folklorecit, p. 119.
3
Ileana Alexandra ORLICH, Silent Bodies: (Re)discovering the Women of Romanian Short
Fiction, East European Monographs, no. 601. Boulder [Colorado], East European Monographs,
2002, p. 14.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

The Changing Face of the Sacrificial Romanian Woman

665

During Romanian state-socialism the newly created industrial working classs


basic frame of thinking included strictly defined gender roles and a suppression of
womens sexuality. The communist ideology tried to change this basic way of thinking
through a denigration of womens contribution to the household and an emphasis on
the value of paid labor. Women were expected to work full-time outside the home,
as differences between men and women were not officially recognized1. This created
the double burdens of work for women. These double burdens became triple ones
when childbearing was declared a patriotic duty2. Marxism took for granted that the
mobilization of all women for productive work outside the home guaranteed their
emancipation, as the only oppression it recognized was that of labor by capital, all
other forms of oppression being seen as derivative3. For this reason, under socialism
gender inequality was considered to have been solved4.
The demand for womens full-time employment was motivated by the rapid
transformation of the economy into an industrialized one in need of more and more
workers. In June 1973 the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party
called for more widespread employment of women5. Women did enter the labor force
in large numbers, by 1989, 40.4% of employees in state enterprises were women6. In
this context Nicolae Ceauescu, the Secretary General of the Romanian Communist
Party from 1965 to 1989, promised to develop the production of home appliances and
utensils and ready-cooked foods to alleviate womens housework burdens7. Despite
the official discourse, when we analyze the specific prioritization of household
appliances within communist homes, we identify an order of priorities that speak of
the power relationships between men and women. The prioritized appliances were
radios and TV sets destined for common use but mainly used and cared for by men,
followed by cars that served mostly mens interests, and only lastly came appliances
destined for womens work in the house. If we look at statistical data from Romania
starting with 1965 until 1979 the number of TV sets per one thousand people increased
sevenfold, the number of cars twenty-one fold, while the number of washing machines
only fourfold8.

Mary Ellen FISCHER, Doina Pasca HARSNYI, From Tradition and Ideology to
Elections and Competition the Changing Status of Women in Romanian Politics, in Marilyn
RUESCHEMEYER (ed.), Women in the Politics of Postcommunist Eastern Europe, M.E. Sharpe, Inc.,
Armonk, New York, 1998, pp. 202-203.
2
Gail KLIGMAN, The Politics of Duplicity Controlling Reproduction in Ceausescus Romania,
University of California Press, Berkeley, 1998, p. 25.
3
Alfred G. MEYER, Feminism, Socialism, and Nationalism in Eastern Europe, in Sharon
L. WOLCHIK, Alfred G. MEYER (eds.), Women, State and Party in Easter Europe, Duke University
Press, Durham, 1985, pp. 17-18.
4
Milica G. ANTI, Politics in Transition, in Joan W. SCOTT, Cora KAPLAN, Debra
KEATES (eds.), Transitions, Environments, Translations Feminism in International Politics, Routledge,
New York, 1997, p. 144.
5
Mary Ellen FISCHER, Women in Romanian Politics: Elena Ceauescu, Pronatalism, and
the Promotion of Women, in Sharon L. WOLCIK, Alfred G. MEYER (eds.), Women, State and
Partycit., p. 125.
6
Gail KLIGMAN, The Politics of Duplicitycit, p. 26.
7
Mary Ellen FISCHER, Women in Romanian Politicscit., p. 125.
8
Vladimir PASTI, Mihaela MIROIU, Ultima inegalitate: relaiile de gen n Romnia, Polirom,
Iai, 2003, pp. 111-112.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

666

FLORENTINA ANDREESCU

Furthermore, the increased demand for labor brought about pronatalist policies
aimed at increasing the number of Romanian workers. Nicolae Ceauescu started
a fertility campaign in 1966, one year after he was installed in power. This fertility
campaign was pursued throughout the remaining twenty-three years of his rule
and entailed the interdiction of abortions1 while making contraceptives unavailable.
The state required that each fertile woman under forty-five give birth to at least four
children. Banning abortions has never eradicated the practice of abortion instead
it renders this practice invisible in the public sphere and womens lives vulnerable
to physical and psychological risks that accompany illegal abortions2. Specialists
estimate that only 50% of illegal abortions were successful while the other 50% of
women required emergency hospital treatment for infections or other complications,
or died3. As a result of the restrictive reproductive health policies enforced under the
25-year Ceauescu dictatorship, Romania ended the 1980s with the highest recorded
maternal mortality of any country in Europe 159 deaths per 100 000 live births in
1989. An estimated 87% of these maternal deaths were caused by illegal and unsafe
abortions4.
The female ideal within communism resembles to a great extent the ideal identified
in the Craftsman Manole myth, where the body of the woman and her sexuality are
appropriated by the state and strictly regulated. In order for the industrial society
to be built, the socialist state proclaimed that the fetus is the socialist property of
the whole society. At state enterprises compulsory gynecological exams were
performed annually to test the reproductive health of the nations women5. Moreover,
any woman between ages 16 and 45 who was hospitalized for any reason was given
a pregnancy test6. Once a pregnancy was officially registered, a woman was unable
to rid herself of it without considerable risk. The woman saw her body appropriated
by the socialist state and transformed into the body of the nation. It was upon her
pain and lack of freedom that the industrial nation was built. The communist woman
found herself again trapped within the walls built by the civilized Romanian
men, and performing the part of a sacrificial being.
In a study taking a psychological approach, Adriana Bban finds that the
appropriation of womens bodies by the socialist state created deep consequences
for womens psyches. By conducting and analyzing a series of interviews with
women directly affected by the pronatalist polices, Bban finds that women started
to see their bodies as a source of pain, the cause of their lack of freedom as well as
representing a cause of danger. The constant struggle against unwanted pregnancies
and the stress associated with clandestine abortions prompted some women to recoil

1
Adriana BBAN, Women Sexuality and Reproductive Behavior in Post-Ceausescu
Romania: a Psychological Approach, in Susan GAL, Gail KLIGMAN (eds.), Reproducing
Gender Politics, Publics, and Everyday Life after Socialism, Princeton University Press, Princeton
NJ, 2000, p. 227.
2
Gail KLIGMAN, The Politics of Duplicitycit, pp. 6-7.
3
Ibidem, p. 56.
4
Charlotte HORD, Henry P. DAVID, France DONNAY, Merrill WOLF, Reproductive
Health in Romania: Reversing the Ceausescu Legacy, Studies in Family Planning, vol. 22, no. 4,
1991, pp. 231-240.
5
Adriana BBAN, Women Sexualitycit, p. 227.
6
Gail KLIGMAN, The Politics of Duplicitycit, p. 100.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

The Changing Face of the Sacrificial Romanian Woman

667

at the thought of their womanhood and femininity1. Any attempt by a woman to


regain her body and her sexuality was discouraged and sanctioned by the socialist
state. Outward manifestations of feminine elegance in style, manner and dress
gradually disappeared2. The womens identity construction followed the general
Bolshevik woman-proletarian model, apparently an embodiment of nonsexuality
and nonfemininity, usually identified in Romania with Ana Pauker (one of the first
communist women-leaders), Suzana Gdea (deputy secretary for culture and society
under Ceauescu), and Elena Ceauescu (Ceauescus wife and number two in the
communist hierarchy of power)3. A nicely dressed woman was subject to suspicion,
sometimes even investigation4.
As heroine workers women were requested to fit the identity of a male worker.
Yet despite the official rejection of gender differences, women were seen as a weaker
version of a male hero worker, and tended to work in sectors where they were deemed
to have special competence in fields such as health, education, light industry, retail
trade, service and consumer specialties. The planned economy strategy determined
a sectors hierarchy that rendered certain sectors more important than others further
creating a political hierarchy of people that occupied the different sectors5. The sectors
associated with women received less investment and remuneration than the more
masculine areas, yet men still tended to hold the positions of power in them as
managers and directors6.
The communist female ideal is reinforced in the films produced during the
Ceauescu regime. These films strive to follow the official discourse and portray
a society that doesnt engage in gender discrimination. However, if we pay closer
attention to their stories, we find the reality quite different. This means that the
materialization of ideology in films reveals inherent antagonisms which the explicit
formulation of ideology cannot afford to acknowledge. Nevertheless, if an ideological
edifice is to function normally, it must articulate its inherent antagonism in the
external, material existence7. The vast majority of films produced under communism
present stories that take place within the work space. The character in charge of the
work place and in a position of authority is almost always male. The problems or
issues in the films narrative usually belong to the male. His thoughts and worries
take central stage while those of the female characters derive from the males agency
and occupy a peripheral place in the narrative. The female characters are portrayed
engaging in domestic endeavors or, if at work, as accompanying or helping male
characters, such as preparing coffee or answering phone calls. This scenario is present
in films such as: A Summer with Mara (George Cornea, 1988), Some Wonderful Guys
(Cornel Diaconu, 1987), Love Is Much More Worthy (Dan Marcoci 1982), Good Evening

Adriana BBAN, Women Sexualitycit, p. 232.


Mary Ellen FISCHER, Doina Pasca HARSNYI, From Tradition and Ideologycit.,
p. 207.
3
Denise ROMAN, Fragmented Identities: Popular Culture, Sex, and Everyday Life in
Postcommunist Romania, Lexington Books, Lanham, 2003, p. 98.
4
Slavenka DRAKULI, How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed, Hutchinson,
London, 1992, p. 23.
5
Vladimir PASTI, Mihaela MIROIU, Ultima Inegalitatecit., p. 106.
6
Mary Ellen FISCHER, Doina Pasca HARSNYI, From Tradition and Ideology cit,
p. 205.
7
Slavoj IEK, The Plague of Fantasies (Wo Es War), Verso, London, 1997, p. 4.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

668

FLORENTINA ANDREESCU

Irina (Tudor Mrscu, 1980), Hot Days (Sergiu Nicolaescu, 1975), The Power and the
Truth (Manole Marcus, 1971), Red Apples (Mircea Diaconu, 1976), and The Explosion
(Mircea Drgan, 1973). Besides the films directed by Malvina Urianu, which I shall
address separately, there are only a few exceptions to this rule, such as in The Premiere
and Ducklings Spring (Mircea Molodovan, 1985). These two films portray female
characters as the source of authority within the work place, yet the unusual situation
is rendered a comedy while the female in charge of production is ridiculed. Ducklings
Spring tells the story of Varvara, a president of the villages communist agricultural
cooperative. The conflict in this film is determined by the fact that Varvara, although
a woman, embodies the power of the socialist system. This film is a comedy that
derives it humor from the reversal of traditional gender roles within the family as
well as within society. Varvara replaces her husband Todera as the president of the
Agricultural Production Cooperative and becomes the person with the most power
in the village as well as in her own family, portrayed as the subject of humor. The
story highlights all the ostensible conflicts created because a woman instead of a man
controls production. It also stresses that Varvara disagrees with innovative changes,
positioning the female character as backward-looking and rejecting progress, in
contrast with the male worker who is forward-looking and embraces progress.
Another film that deals with a woman holding a position of power is The Premiere.
A female theatre director, Alexandra, becomes absorbed in her work and neglects her
family. Her intense focus on work brings tragedy in her private life. Her husband is
bored and starts courting a very young woman who displays an interest in traditional
female domestic activities. The film emphasizes what makes the young woman
appealing: her passion for traditional work such as cooking and cleaning. Meanwhile,
Alexandras son, due to a lack of parental guidance, gets into a car accident and almost
loses his life. Problems appear not only in her private life, but also at her workplace. A
theatre play put together under Alexandras supervision is a flop, because the public
doesnt understand it. This alludes to the myth that women possess an odd logic
and strange ideas. Alexandra is not to be taken seriously. Her pain does not attract
sympathy, but only a cynical remark that this is the result of a woman neglecting her
main role, that of a wife and a mother.
A common theme in the films produced during communism is that of a womans
sacrifice for the sake of a mans duty. The accomplishment of such a duty creates
significant changes in the life of a woman, who has to accept these changes without
questioning them. This specific situation is present in Angela Keeps Going. It is the
story of a woman taxi driver, Angela who meets in her taxi Gyuri, a petroleum worker
who is in training in Bucharest for a year in order to prepare for three years of work
in India. Angela and Gyuri fall in love and get married. The time comes when Gyuri
has to respond to the duty demanded by the socialist state and leave his new bride for
three years. The narrative stresses the difficulty Angela has in accepting her husbands
leaving, but she learns to do so by embracing the communist female ideal. Her action
confers the acceptance of the Other, and transforms the character into a heroine. This
sacrificial attitude is presented in a romantic light.
A number of films present heroines that oppose the acceptance of a sacrificial
role. This resistance makes the woman dangerous and irrational. The stories show the
efforts men put into rehabilitating the female attitudes aimed at bringing the woman
to acknowledge the righteousness of following the social set ways. In Good Evening
Irina the female character decides to divorce her husband who chooses to prioritize
his duty to the state over his responsibilities as a husband. While in The Bride in the
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

The Changing Face of the Sacrificial Romanian Woman

669

Train (Lucian Bratu, 1980) the young female character finds herself bored with the
worker lifestyle who is complying with the socialist way of life instead of choosing
more exciting ways of living.
The films discussed until this point have been directed by male directors. The
female director Malvina Urianu produced during communism, eight films with
female characters that differ from the communist heroines analyzed so far. Urianus
heroines are powerful women that are found at the center of her cinematic stories, for
example in The Extras (1987), A Light at the 10th Floor (1984), On the Left Shore of the Blue
Danube (1983), The Silence of the Depth (1982), Transient Love Stories (1974), and Monalisa
without Smile (1967). Most of her heroines are engineers with significant success in
their profession. They portray the perfect embodiment of the communist worker
ideal. This situation is specific to Monalisa without Smile, Transient Love Stories (1974),
and A Light at the 10th Floor. Even though they are professionally accomplished, these
female characters lack a personal life and their faces never portray a smile. The lack of
smile is marked by the title Monalisa without Smile. In an interview Malvina Urianu
explains that the lack of smile reflects the drama of the woman in the poque of
the socialist constructions triumph1. The absence of smile which escapes the strict
censorship of the communist system represents the point at which the communist
ideology breaks down. Urianus female characters acquire the symbol of power of
the communist system, more specifically the knowledge and strength to build within
the venerated communist heavy industry. Once the woman assumes the position of
power, usually associated with men, she painfully realizes that the Other, in this case
the communist state, did not hold the secret to accomplishing desire. The promise
of achieving happiness through the Other turns out to be a false one. Furthermore
the mystery and strength, which males portrayed as the exclusive occupants of the
position of power, vanish and because of this male-female relationships are deeply
affected. In Monalisa without Smile one of the characters, referring to the successful
chemist engineer Irina, states: When such women exist, poets have no place. Irina
on the other hand confesses that her life experience took away uncertainties and the
belief that people can hold mysteries. She finds she deals with both life and feelings
as calmly and precisely as she deals with chemical reactions. A similar message is
encountered in Transient Love Stories in which Andrei, a former lover and colleague,
writes to engineer Lena:
Poor Lena, to which man could you dedicate your life, you who builds
alone cities, airports and interplanetary ships? Who can defend you from dangers
which you alone can eliminate? I am next to you, a poor work comrade without
mystery.

The Female Ideal in Post-revolutionary Discourse


The films produced after the December 1989 revolution portray a somewhat
changed female ideal, but with an unchanged position within the structure of
fantasy. During this postcommunist period, male workers aggressively demand the

1
Magda MIHILESCU, Malvina URIANU, Aceste Gioconde fr surs. Convorbiri cu
Malvina Urianu, Curtea Veche, Bucureti, 2006, p. 52.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

670

FLORENTINA ANDREESCU

protection of their rights, while there is a striking absence of a feminist movement1. A


non-demanding female attitude is encouraged by the Orthodox Church that regained
social influence after communism. The Orthodox Church advocates a return to the
traditional and pure values of the past. In this sense it promotes a patriarchal model
of female servility and self-sacrifice towards husbands and children2. The postsocialists
ignore the problem of gender inequality3. As a result, Romanian women have a very
low presence in politics, and traditional gender roles are hard to challenge4.
The communist ideology shaped to a large extent social identities and its sudden
collapse led to the invalidation and the dismissal of these identities, an action that
proved to be traumatic for the society5. The sudden collapse of the communist
regime was rapid, sharp and brought about a change that was truly systemic and
multidimensional, embracing politics, economics, culture as well as everyday life.
These changes were experienced by the whole population and reached the foundation
of the earlier system signifying a complete reversal of the deep premises of social life:
from autocracy to democracy in the domain of politics; from central planning to the
market in the domain of economics; from censorship to open, pluralistic thought in
the domain of culture; and from the society of shortages to a society of consumerism.
The clash of the two distinct discourses meant that for most people their internalized,
trained way of life lost effectiveness and even became counterproductive or negatively
sanctioned in the new system, while the new cultural rules appeared to them as alien,
imposed and coercive6.
The female ideal as portrayed in postcommunist films seems to present two
variants. There is the traditional woman under patriarchal protection in the role of wife
or daughter, or of prostitute. The female prostitute is the one who poses demands and
challenges. But in fact this form of challenge does not create freedom, as it remains under
the patriarchal authority. After 1989 prostitution became a widespread phenomenon
within the Romanian society. As a country that recently emerged from a repressive
regime that imposed social identities and drastically regulated sexual behavior, once
repressive control was suddenly removed social identities needed to be renegotiated.
This led to a certain misinterpretation of personal freedoms. The Romanian press was
awash in images portraying a pronounced aggressive sexual content. The repeated
display of successful couples comprised of a rich man and a young accessory
1
Mihaela MIROIU, Liliana POPESCU, Post-totalitarian Pre-feminism, in Henry F.
CAREY (ed.), Romania Since 1989: Politics, Economics, and Society, Lexington Books, Lanham,
2004, p. 301; Mihaela MIROIU, Not the Right Moment! Women and the Politics of Endless
Delay in Romania, Womens History Review, vol. 19, no. 4, 2010, pp. 575-593.
2
Vlad OPRICA, Gender Equality and Conflicting Attitudes Toward Women in Postcommunist Romania, Human Rights Review, vol. 9, no. 1, 2008, pp. 29-40.
3
Renata SALECL, The Postsocialist Moral Majority, in Joan W. SCOTT, Cora KAPLAN,
Debra KEATES (eds.), Environments, Translations Feminism in International Politics, Routledge,
New York, 1997, p. 85.
4
Livia POPESCU, Child Care, Family and State in Post-socialist Romania, in Maria
MESNER, Gudrun WOLFGRUBER (eds.), The Policies of Reproduction at the Turn of the 21st
Century: the Cases of Finland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Austria, and the US, StudienVerlag,
Innsbruck, 2006, p. 114.
5
Florentina ANDREESCU, The Changing Facecit., p. 87.
6
Piotr SZTOMPKA, The Trauma of Social Change a Case of Postcommunist Societies,
in Jeffrey C. ALEXANDER (ed.), Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity, Berkeley, University of
California Press, California, 2004, p. 172.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

The Changing Face of the Sacrificial Romanian Woman

671

woman led to the internalization of these models as life patterns. Nascent prostitution
rings exploited the situation of the fascination with media-constructed role models1.
The other facet of the female ideal is that of a traditional woman who occupies the
role of a wife or daughter. Within Romanian society the stereotypical career woman
remains primarily a sexual object and site of reproduction; being recognized as an
intelligent individual depends first upon fulfillment of the feminine ideal2.
The films produced after the revolution, portray in their stories the lack of
morality at the base of the social order. Distrust in the happiness offered by the two
female ideals can be identified. In this sense what it is questioned is the social order
that constructed the two ideals. Even though a woman still occupies the sacrificial
role, her sacrifice is now seen in a different light. The male who asks for the sacrifice is
portrayed as acting out of selfish reasons. This is in sharp contrast to the communist
films where the womens sacrifice was performed in the name of the moral, rightful
state. The films produced after the revolution, make clear the fact that the males
ability to request sacrifice comes from his occupying a position of power, a privileged
position in the social order. The womans sacrifice is no longer seen as a heroic act, but
as an act that needs to be questioned.
An important aspect of post-revolution films is their focus on portraying the
rigidity of the two versions of the female ideal. This focus exposes the oppression
inherent within the social order. The wife or prostitute ideals limit painfully the
female forms of existence and being. This pain is expressed clearly by the female
characters who have a hard time identifying with either ideal. The characters search
for new forms of expression and existence. This search is expressed in films such
as: Boogie (Radu Munteanu, 2008), The Famous Paparazzo (Nicolae Mrgineanu, 2003),
The Conjugal Bed (Mircea Danieluc, 1993), Maria (Petre Netzer, 2003), Margo (Ioan
Crmzan, 2006), Marilena from P7 (Cristian Nemescu, 2006), and Currency Exchange
(Nicolae Mrgineanu, 2008). They make bluntly clear the pain of the women trapped
in one of the two female ideals and forced to interact with the world through these
ideals. The ideal is presented as a tightly crafted prison built by a demented social order
that demands the womans sacrifice in the name of its law. For example in Boogie we
are presented with the problems faced by a couple in their thirties when they realize
that the promise of family life satisfying their desires is untrue. The films narrative
presents the frustration of Smaranda, a woman who tries to fit the role of a wife.
She finds this role to be limiting, even impeding a more profound connection with
her own husband. Smaranda finds that being addressed as wife by her husband
is insulting and asks him to stop calling her by that term. Conversely, Marilena from
P7 tells the story of a young prostitute who falls in love with one of her clients and
desires a meaningful relationship with him. When she realizes that such a relationship
is impossible because her interactions with the world are dictated by the prostitute
female ideal she embodies, Marilenas suffering becomes so intense that it generates
an electrical short-circuit in her neighborhood. The short-circuit scene speaks loudly
about the pain of a woman trapped in the walls built around her by the social order.
1

Dan Alexandru DRAGOMIRESCU, Carmen NECULA, Raluca SIMION, Romania: Emerging Market for Trafficking? Clients and Trafficked Women in Romania, in Andrea DI NICOLA
(ed.), Prostitution and Human Trafficking Focus on Clients, Springer, New York, 2009, p. 155.
2
Shannon WOODCOCK, Romanian Womens Discourse of Sexual Violence Othered
Ethnicities, Gendering Spaces, in Janet Elise JOHNSON, Jean C. ROBIN (eds.), Living Gender
after Communism, Indiana University Press, Bloomington IN, 2007, p. 156.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

672

FLORENTINA ANDREESCU

The short-circuit is an event that does not fit within the cinematic story, it represents
the Real that intrudes into the fantasmatic realm and completely disrupts it, ripping
apart the fantasy structure, as well as the consistency of the ideology within which it
was constructed1.
A large number of the films produced after the revolution cast the woman in
the role of prostitute, as I have noted. Just a few examples of such films are: Marilena
from P7, Margo, Maria, The Famous Paparazzo (Nicolae Mrgineanu, 2003), The Italian
Girls (Napoleon Helmis, 2004), Asfalt Tango (Nae Caranfil, 1996), Currency Exchange
and Pepe and Fifi (Dan Pia, 2004). Unlike during the communist period, the body
of a woman no longer represents that of the nation, but is seen as a commodity
whose value is determined by the market. Instead of repossessing her body after the
revolution, we see the female accepting a new type of alienation. The female body
becomes a commodity, more specifically a sexual object for men.
Recent Romanian films do not idealize the portrayal of the woman as a sex object,
but expose her pain when hailed as such an object. In this sense the films destroy
the pleasure of looking and create modes of solidarity between the characters and
the audience. This approach to female representation in film is encouraged by Laura
Mulvey2. The films do not slow or freeze the flow of action in moments of erotic
contemplation of the womans body. Instead the action halts to contemplate the pain
of the woman trapped in a strict ideal. This contemplation of suffering is an important
part of the film Marilena from P7, a film in which the overbearing pain of the female
character produces a power outage. Likewise, in a number of films the camera focuses
on the physical abuse endured by the heroines, such as in Margo and Maria, or on the
alienation from ones own existence as requested by the social law, a situation present
in Pepe and Fifi and Boogie.
A prevalent theme in the films produced after the revolution is the violence
directed against women. Violence is usually performed by men who use their
position in the social order to control, inflict pain, and force women into prostitution,
a situation present in Marilena from P7, Margo, The Italian Girls, Pepe and Fifi, A Case
of Disappearance (Dan Pduraru, 2005), and Love and Warm Water (Dan Mironescu,
1992). The familiar discourse regarding female violence in Romanian society is that
women, who are outside their natural boundaries or traditional roles of wife or
daughter, invite sexual violence from men. Social discourses of sex crime create public
space as the sphere in which women (especially those who inhabit the feminine ideal)
face the perpetual danger of sexual violence. By this logic it is within the private
sphere of marriage that the Romanian feminine ideal is safe3. This basic discourse is
contradicted and exposed as false in films such as Maria and Weekend with My Mother
(Stere Gulea, 2009) which portray the family as a place where the woman is physically
abused by the patriarch. A 2003 study4 on violence against women in Bucharest, the
capital of Romania, shows that half of the surveyed women experienced verbal or
emotional abuse within their family, while 21% experienced physical threats and
intimidation. Moreover, 21% of women have experienced physical abuse, and 8%
1

Todd MCGOWAN, The Real Gaze: Film Theory After Lacancit, p. 165.
Laura MULVEY, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, Screen, vol. 16, no. 3, 1975,
pp. 6-18.
3
Shannon WOODCOCK, Romanian Womens Discoursecit., p. 160.
4
Gallup Poll Organization, Survey on Violence Against Women in Bucharest (27 May
2003), cited by Vlad OPRICA, Gender Equalitycit., pp. 29-40.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

The Changing Face of the Sacrificial Romanian Woman

673

have experienced sexual abuse. Victims of excessive control and isolation behaviors
by husbands represent 31% of the surveyed women1.
One form of overcoming the social trauma produced by the stringent communist
order is to express the traumatic event in narratives, monuments, art, or public
commemorations. In this sense, the films produced after the revolution that portray
communist life, aim at healing the traumatic scars of the Romanian psyche. I refer
here to films such as: The Oak (Lucian Pintilie, 1992), 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
(Cristian Mungiu, 2007), 12:08 East of Bucharest (Corneliu Porumboiu, 2006), and The
Paper Will Be Blue (Radu Munteanu, 2006).
The film 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days specifically deals with the agonizing
condition of a young woman whose body and sexuality were strictly regulated by the
socialist state. The film follows Otilia and Gabriela (Gbia), two university students in
a Romanian town. Gbia becomes pregnant and wishes to have an abortion. In order
to get rid of the unwanted pregnancy, the two friends meet with Mr. Bebe in a hotel
where he is to perform an illegal abortion. The pronatalist policy subjugates the two
women to the demands of Mr. Bebe, who has the knowledge to perform an abortion,
and who demands to have sex with the two girls in exchange for his services. The
exchange of services is disturbing, for it makes overtly evident that the pronatalist
policies force women to accept degrading privation of liberty and empoweres the
patriarch who obscenely2 enjoys his position of power and uses the state law to force
the two girls into serving him as sex objects. This traumatic experience induces Otilia
to question her relationship with her boyfriend, and further question in general the
inequality in power between men and women. At the same time the film emphasizes
the bond which develops between the two young women, a bond that will allow
Otilia, for her friends benefit, to accept and participate in the exchange which Mr.
Bebe proposes. Otilia acknowledges and expresses to her boyfriend that women
have only each other to rely on when it comes to situations such as abortions. There
is a recognition of the common pain and oppression that awakens a gender group
conscience strongly affirmed in Otilias words.

Final Remarks
This article investigated the position of the female ideal in the Romanian
structure of fantasy, as well as its specifics and changes over time. The female ideal
is subordinated to the Other and to the patriarchal order. In order for a woman to be
accepted within the social order she needs to perform the role of a sacrificial being
as requested by the male and also by the Other. With the change of discourse in the
Romanian society, we witness a transformation of the female ideal from a worker and
mother heroine to that of a traditional woman or a prostitute.
An important aspect noted in this research is that changes in the prevailing
discourse within a society do not affect the basic structure of fantasy, nor the position
occupied by the female ideal in the structure of fantasy. Within this structure the

Vlad OPRICA, Gender Equalitycit., pp. 29-40.


Using obscene in this context accentuates the fact that the patriarchal authority overtly
breaks the law that it officially enforces. This situation differs from the films produced during
communism where the authority was portrayed as a stern but a rightful one.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

674

FLORENTINA ANDREESCU

woman remains a sacrificial being. The only change is that the sacrifice is now seen as
fulfilling the request of a social order that lacks a sense of morality. This transforms the
womans sacrifice from a heroic act conferring upon her acceptance from within the
social order, into a traumatic event performed at the request of an obscene authority.
The new awareness that Romanian women gain regarding the constraining role
they are attributed within the social order speaks about the weakening power the
social order holds. It also creates a momentum for change as women as dissatisfied
subjects are incipient revolutionary subjects. The absence created by the dislocation
of the social, in this case by the crumbling of the communist social order and the
identities it constructed, brought an encounter with the Real. What one can appreciate
in the Romanian case is that the lack created by the dislocation does not cause desire
for a new discursive articulation, but instead of being covered with a new fantasy
formation, the lack is encircled again and again within the films analyzed. The traces
of trauma are preserved and exposed.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

675

Le Centre National de la Cinmatographie

Le Centre National de la Cinmatographie


Articulations du postcommunisme roumain
ELENA ARHIRE
La logique de reconstruction institutionnelle postcommuniste se rapporte
constamment lhritage des gigantesques institutions publiques, centralises et
monolithiques 1 et celui dun appareil administratif dtat dans le cadre duquel
agissent les fonctionnaires publics de lancien rgime. Cet article se concentre sur
linvestigation de la reconfiguration institutionnelle de ltat roumain dans le
domaine cinmatographique. Lanalyse des mcanismes darticulation du Centre
National de la Cinmatographie (CNC) se propose dtablir dans quelle mesure cette
institution centrale fonctionne dans la logique dune institution dmocratique. Ce
concept dsigne, suggre Guillermo ODonnell, des structures daction rgularises,
pratiques de manire constante et acceptes par les agents sociaux qui, en vertu de
ces caractristiques attendent une interaction continue dans le cadre des rgles et des
normes formelles et informelles incarnes par ces structures2.
Paralllement la dsintgration du rgime communiste, un processus de
reconfiguration institutionnelle est mis en place dans le contexte de lassemblage du
rgime dmocratique et de sa subsquente consolidation. Les deux processus sont
investigus en ce qui suit par lanalyse du cadre institutionnel tatique postcommuniste.
La perspective privilgie danalyse est celle de linstitutionnalisme historique qui
accorde une attention spciale au contexte historique dans lequel sont encadrs les
vnements analyss; des questions qui en dcoulent sont ensuite formules. De plus,
seront analyss lapparition des institutions dans la Roumanie postcommuniste et la
faon dont ces institutions parlent du comportement des acteurs qui voluent dans
cet espace3.
Comprises dans les termes de Juan Linz et Alfred Stepan, les transformations
qui redfinissent les tats aprs la chute dun rgime autoritaire ou totalitaire, sont
domines par deux processus politiques fondamentaux: la transition dmocratique
et la consolidation dmocratique4. La dmocratisation a comme premire condition
dexistence une contestation ouverte en ce qui concerne le droit de reconqute du

1
Adam MICHNIK, Ciudata epoc post comunist, in IDEM, Restauraia de catifea, trad.
par Daciana Branea, Dana Chetrinescu, Cristina Cheveresan, Dana Crciun, Ioana CopilPopovici, Polirom, Iai, 2005 apud Corina UTEU, Overview on Cultural Policy in Central and
Eastern Europe, ECUMEST Association, Romanian Academic Society, Bucureti, 2005, p. 5.
2
Guillermo ODONNELL, Delegative Democracy, Journal of Democracy, vol. 5, no. 1,
2004. pp. 55-69.
3
Sven STEINMO, What is Historical Institutionalism?, in Donatella DELLA PORTA,
Michael KEATING (ds.), Approaches in the Social Sciences, Cambridge University Press,
Cambridge, 2008, p. 4.
4
Juan LINZ, Alfred STEPAN, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation. Southern
Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe, John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore
and London, 1996, p. 4.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

676

ELENA ARHIRE

contrle du gouvernement, phnomne qui est directement conditionn par les


lections libres qui dcident les nouveaux dtenteurs du pouvoir1. Dautre part,
la consolidation dmocratique ne se dfinit pas uniquement par lexistence des
lections, mais aussi par celle des mcanismes de lconomie de march, couvrant des
dimensions comportementales, dattitude et constitutionnelles lorsque la dmocratie
devient routinire, profondment internalise socialement, institutionnellement et
psychologiquement2.
Notre analyse se concentre sur la rearticulation du cinma roumain afin de
mettre en exergue la rorganisation de ce domaine artistique telle quelle est imagine
par les autorits postcommunistes pour, notamment, surprendre le rapport entre art
et politique dans le contexte de la dmocratisation. Il faut, ce point, sinterroger
sur lexistence dun rapport de continuit se dessinant entre lavant et laprs 1989
dans le domaine artistique. Il est vident quil sagit dun espace artistique qui
se compose de manire diffrente et cest pour cela quon veut dcouvrir si des
continuits existent au niveau des logiques institutionnelles imagines par ltat,
au niveau des pratiques de ses fonctionnaires, et au niveau des acteurs artistiques
directement impliqus.
Limportance de la cinmatographie est chercher dans sa capacit dinterrogation
et de rflexion au sujet du rapport entre lindividu et la ralit qui lentoure. De tel que
le suggre Christian Metz, le cinma peut tre considr comme un fait social total, qui,
dans le sens relev par Marcel Mauss, est dfini comme ensemble multidimensionnel
qui dnote lexistence dune masse htroclite de remarques impliquant des points
de vue multiples et varis3. Compar dautres formes de perception administre, le
cinma fournit un accs suprieur la vracit empirique, ses implications principales
drivent de sa manire de produire et mobiliser les images dans le sens o il provoque
une sortie de la pense en dehors dune narration dtermine4.
Sous la lumire de ses rapports avec le politique, le cinma fonctionne comme
un espace discursif de lutte symbolique5 entre les divers acteurs politiques. En tant
que discours de la communication en masse introduits dans lespace public, les films
deviennent le site dans le cadre duquel sont proposes et reprises les reprsentations
culturelles6 qui, dun ct, influencent la ralit quotidienne, de lautre, construisent
limaginaire social et la mmoire collective. Cest pourquoi, il est question de noter
que le type de reprsentations, qui sont ou seront proposes ou imposes dans une
culture, deviennent une question politique cruciale car, elles dfinissent non seulement
les dispositions psychologiques, mais elles dtiennent un rle important dans la
mise en forme de la ralit sociale, dsignant les principales figures qui dfinissent
le processus de modelage de la vie et des institutions sociales7. De plus, le cinma
est une forme de mdiation politique qui rvle les stratgies et les mcanismes
rgissant le fonctionnement du pouvoir. Or, cette forme de mdiation politique
1

Ibidem, p. 5.
Ibidem.
3
Christian METZ, Langage et cinema, Larousse, Paris, 1971, p. 5.
4
Michael J. SHAPIRO, Cinematic Geopolitics, Routledge, New York, 2009, pp. 5, 11.
5
Michael RYAN, Douglas KELLNER, Camera Politica, the Politics and Ideology of Contemporary
Hollywood Film, Indiana University Press, Indiana, 1988, p. 13.
6
Manuel TRENZANDO ROMERO, El cine desde la perspective de la ciencia politica,
Revista Espaola de Investigaciones Sociologicas, no. 92, 2000, p. 48.
7
Michael RYAN, Douglas KELLNER, Camera Politicacit., p. 13.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Le Centre National de la Cinmatographie

677

construit limaginaire politique, celui qui explique et interprte les diffrents niveaux
du processus politique et le rle des instances qui y participent1.

Le modle communiste darticulation de la cinmatographie


Pour comprendre le processus de redfinition de lespace cinmatographique
pendant le postcommunisme il faut rappeler la place privilgie que le communisme
lui accordait et son articulation institutionnelle. Or, ce fait ne tient plus de lvidence
pendant la priode postcommuniste. La cinmatographie sortait aprs 1989 de laire
de dpendance de ltat et devait reconfigurer son systme oprationnel se rapportant
dun ct, lindpendance face aux supports financiers tatiques, et de lautre, au
fonctionnement de lconomie du march libre. Dans ce contexte, il est intressant
dinvestiguer si lorganisation institutionnelle, dans la forme qui lui est dicte par
lappareil tatique postcommuniste, fournit un cadre favorable au dveloppement du
principe de la pluralit de visions et des voix.
La production et la distribution de films sinscrivent, pendant le communisme,
dans un cadre spcifique dadministration culturelle2 consacrant lomniprsence
paternaliste de ltat. Le plus souvent, une institution gouvernementale tait non
seulement mise en place afin de contrler de plus prs la production cinmatographique,
mais le systme de financement tait centralis et tatis. De plus, la production tait
encadre par un rseau de studios dtat et la distribution inscrite dans le cadre dun
systme monopolis.
partir de 1945, lappareil tatique communiste avait veill larticulation dun
nouvel ordre symbolique et dans cette dmarche de reconstruction des imaginaires
sociaux, il stait assur la concentration des moyens de production symbolique3.
Ltat communiste avait cr donc une srie dinstitutions dont le rle tait de soutenir
le dveloppement et le fonctionnement de ce quAlain Besanon appelle la magie
esthtique4. En vertu de sa qualit de moyen de production des reprsentations
sociales, la cinmatographie tait attentivement organise, finance et oriente en
fonction des ncessits idologiques. Aprs 1948, paralllement au Dcret 303 portant
sur la nationalisation de lindustrie cinmatographique et sur la rglementation
des produits cinmatographiques, et complt par lacte constitutionnel de la
Rpublique Populaire Roumaine de 1952 qui dclarait le domaine cinmatographique
comme intgr la proprit de ltat communiste roumain5, ltat consacre le
monople sur la procdure, la transformation et la commercialisation des produits
cinmatographiques.
Une politique de subvention tait galement imagine. Linstrumentalisation
du langage artistique cinmatographique se faisait travers la mise en marche dun

1
Dan NIMMO, James E. COMBS, Mediated Political Realities, Longman, New York, 1990,
apud M. TRENZANDO ROMERO, El cine...cit., p. 53.
2
Dina IORDANOVA, Cinema of the Other Europe: The Industry and Artistry of East Central
European Film, Wallflower Press, London, 2003, p. 21.
3
Ibidem, p. 75.
4
Alain BESANON, Originile intelectuale ale leninismului, trad. par Mona Antohi et Sorin
Antohi, Humanitas, Bucureti, 2007, p. 353.
5
Art 7, Constitution de la Republique Populaire Roumaine de 1952.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

678

ELENA ARHIRE

programme immdiat et de perspective concernant lorganisation dun systme


autarchique1. Une srie dinstitutions taient prvues pour rgir le domaine du
cinma, comme par exemple, le Comit Cinmatographique2, cr dans le cadre du
Conseil des Ministres. Il sagissait aussi darticuler et dvelopper une infrastructure,
tout dabord, au moyen dune srie dinstitutions destines la cration du nouveau
cinma les studios Alexandru Sahia (1949) pour les films documentaires, le Studio
Cinmatographique de Bucarest (1950), les studios de Buftea (1951) pour les films de
fiction et Animafilm Bucureti (1964) destin aux films danimation3. Ensuite, travers
des centres de production de films comme la Centrale Romnia Film, organise sous
la direction du Conseil de la Censure.
Une volution semblable est observer au niveau de la distribution des films.
Aprs la nationalisation des salles de cinma, 156 dun total de 441 salles taient
fermes4 cause de leur dgradation ou de leur quipement dpass. En raison de
lorganisation chaotique qui rgissait ladministration et lexploitation des salles de
cinma et leur maintien, tait cr en 1950, le Comit pour la cinmatographie, au sein
duquel fonctionnait une Direction du rseau cinmatographique. Une Direction de
diffusion des films tait fonde en 1952, et quatre annes plus tard, ces deux directions
se joignaient dans la Direction du Rseau cinmatographique et de la diffusion des
films, administre par le Centre National de la Cinmatographie, dans le cadre du
Comit dtat pour la Culture et lArt. Son but tait celui de promouvoir une politique
unitaire au sujet des salles de cinma dans tout le pays, de contrler et guider le travail
politico-idologique des films et la diffusion des produits cinmatographiques.
De surcroit, des Entreprises Cinmatographiques Dpartementales dtat taient
organises dans tous les dpartements dont lapparition est lie la tendance de
structuration du rseau de distribution des films et de ladministration des salles.
Par la Dcision no. 877 de 1970, la Direction du Rseau cinmatographique et de
la diffusion des films Romnia Film5 tait cre. Ses attributions portaient sur
lacquisition des films appartenant la production nationale, limportation et
lexportation des produits cinmatographiques, la diffusion et lexploitation des films
artistiques, la gestion des entreprises cinmatographiques dpartementales et de la
ville de Bucarest.
En fait, le Centre National de la Cinmatographie (CNC) est une institution qui
existe, en tant quOffice National de la Cinmatographie, depuis 1934, lorsque la Loi
du Fonds National de la Cinmatographie6 tait promulgue. lpoque, ce fond
tait aliment par deux taxes, une dun leu collecte sur tout billet de cinma vendu,
lautre de dix lei pour chaque mtre de film import, et devait amnager des bases
matrielles et de financement pour la production nationale cinmatographique. En
1936, il fonctionnait sous le nom de Service cinmatographique, sous la direction de

Valerian SAVA, Istoria critic a filmului romnesc contemporan, vol. 1, Meridiane, Bucureti,
1999, p. 170.
2
La Constitution de la Republique Populaire Roumaine de 1952.
3
Caterina PREDA, Dictators and Dictatorships: Artistic Expressions of the Political in Romania
and Chile (1970s-1989), No pas nada?, Dissertation.com, Florida, 2009, p. 107.
4
Ibidem, p. 104.
5
Dcision no. 877 de 30 juin 1970, art. 11.
6
Manuela GHEORGHIU, C. PTRCOIU, Temeliile cinematografiei nationale. Structuri
i perspective, in Ion CANTACUZINO, Manuela GHEORGHIU (ds.), Cinematograful romnesc
contemporan, 1949-1975, Meridiane, Bucureti, 1976, p. 30.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Le Centre National de la Cinmatographie

679

Paul Clinescu, dans le cadre de lOffice National du Tourisme et devenait en 1938,


lOffice National de la Cinmatographie1. En 1971, la Dcision no. 1346 dessinait
le tableau des principales attributions du Centre National de la Cinmatographie,
institution centrale subordonne au Conseil de la Culture et de lducation Socialiste
(CSCE). Celui-ci tait responsable de lorientation idologique et artistique des
productions cinmatographiques nationales et de la diffusion des films2 incluant
lorganisation conomique et technique de lespace cinmatographique. Dun ct,
cette institution formulait les plans thmatiques de la production de films artistiques,
documentaires ou danimation soumis par la suite, dans une premire phase,
lanalyse de la Commission cinmatographique et approuvs par le CSCE. Le CNC
devait aussi assurer le portefeuille des scnarios pour les films artistiques de longmtrage et il devait suivre, contrler et assurer lapplication des directions idologiques
et politiques des scnarios approuvs. De par sa fusion avec la Direction du Rseau
Cinmatographique et Diffusion de Films, la Centrale Romnia Film3 en 1972, le CNC
se trouvait directement sous le contrle du CSCE. Cette institution sauvegardait
jusqu la chute du rgime communiste le rle de gestion et dadministration du
domaine cinmatographique. En fait, sous sa direction se retrouvaient tous les centres
de production cinmatographique: celui de Buftea, les studios Alexandru Sahia et
Animafilm, de tel que les cinq maisons de production de film.

Le modle postcommuniste darticulation de la cinmatographie


Il est important souligner le fait que la cinmatographie sinscrit dans la logique
du contexte plus large de la politique postcommuniste roumaine. Cela devient vident
notamment travers le cadre lgislatif dun rgime dmocratique qui garde aussi
les traces du rgime communiste au niveau des reprsentations, de pratiques, des
rseaux et de la bureaucratie de ltat. Situe en dehors de la protection tatique,
lindustrie cinmatographique sest confronte une crise dordre structurel et un
premier changement relevant est identifier dans la dsintgration des anciennes
routines de production4, spcifiques la vision centraliste de ltat communiste.
En effet, ce quon a lhabitude de reprocher au Centre National de la Cinmatographie est le fait quil maintient, au niveau de ses structures de fonctionnement,
une attitude de clture, dont les racines indiquent encore les influences de lhritage
communiste. Un autre fait not ce sujet est celui quau niveau de ses articulations
fonctionnelles, le CNC a tendance, avoir une attitude arbitraire quant la manire
de distribuer les financements publics et quune des critiques les plus virulentes son
adresse a t la prsence dans des postes importants de divers personnages consacrs
pendant lpoque communiste.
Il est intressant de noter que par lintermdiaire du Dcret-Loi no. 80/1990 la
continuit dune structure institutionnelle unique de rglementation et administration
dans le domaine cinmatographique est assure. Ceci au moyen de la transformation
dune institution communiste, la Centrale Romnia Film, qui devient le Centre

Valerian SAVA, Istoria....cit. p. 127.


Ibidem.
3
Dcision no. 773 de 10 juillet 1972, art. 1.
4
Dina IORDANOVA, Cinema...cit., p.143
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

680

ELENA ARHIRE

National de la Cinmatographie (CNC). Cette cration dune institution par le biais de


la rorganisation dune autre dj existante renvoie une pratique qui tait commune
aux principes dorganisation institutionnelle communiste. La capacit dun rgime
politique de faire perptuer ses usages et ses spcificits mme aprs le moment de sa
rorganisation, de se reproduire certains niveaux est comprendre la lumire du
fait quil traduit aussi, part une dimension formelle et institutionnelle, un ensemble
de modes informels dorganisation des relations de pouvoir entre les personnes et
les groupes au sein de larchitecture institutionnelle et avec la socit1. Or, cest au
niveau de cet ensemble de modalits de structuration des rapports quest assure
la survie, mme aprs son croulement, de certains traits caractristiques du rgime
communiste.
Consquemment, la lecture institutionnelle du CNC est interprter notamment
de cette perspective. La cration de cette institution sinscrit dans la logique dun
processus de formation institutionnelle comportant deux aspects. La nouvelle formule
institutionnelle est indite seulement au niveau dnominatif vu quelle se constitue
par le biais du remodelage dune institution existant dj et quelle maintient dans ses
structures les mmes fonctionnaires. La Centrale Romnia Film devient le CNC et le
personnel qui passe dans la structure bureaucratique de la nouvelle institution est
considr comme transfr en intrt de travail 2 lexception de ceux renvoys au
chmage. Nanmoins, il est essentiel de comprendre la ralisation de ce transfert dans
un contexte o tous ceux qui auraient pu activer dans le domaine cinmatographique
avaient interagi dune manire ou dune autre avec les structures du systme
communiste.
Le CNC est donc, une institution centrale de spcialit, budgtaire, personnalit
juridique qui se constitue, aprs 1989, instance dcisionnelle responsable avec
larticulation dune politique cohrente dans le domaine cinmatographique. Le
CNC exerce ses attributions au niveau de la rglementation, de ladministration,
de la promotion, reprsentation et coordination de la cinmatographie roumaine
post-89. La carte institutionnelle qui prend contours aprs 1989 dans le domaine des
politiques culturelles met en discussion la fois les fonctions que ltat dtient ou
quil devrait dtenir et les fonctions qui sont attribues la culture et, par extension,
lart. Nanmoins, il faut aussi souligner le fait que la production cinmatographique
sarticule, partir de 1989, en fonction de la perte du financement intgral de la part
de ltat et sous la lumire de nouvelles stratgies de subsidiarit imagines par les
autorits tatiques en place3. De plus, une srie de pratiques sont inaugures ayant
un rle important dans lconomie de la ralisation cinmatographique appartenant
linitiative prive, au niveau de la production et des investissements en coexistence
avec le systme de coproduction internationale de plus en plus important4.
Francis Fukuyama interroge la manire de laquelle les modles dinstitutions
fortes peuvent tre transfres dans des tats en plein processus de dveloppement
tout en accentuant lide que lexistence des institutions publiques fonctionnelles
impose une srie dhabitudes de pense qui, leur tour, agissent de manire

1
Alexandra IONESCU, Partis, rgime politique et bureaucratie dtat dans le postcommunisme, Studia Politica. Romanian Political Science Review, vol. III, no. 4, 2003, pp. 921-943/p. 933.
2
Dcret-Loi no. 80 du 8 fvrier 1990, art. 20.
3
Dina IORDANOVA, Cinema.cit, p. 143.
4
Ibidem, p. 26.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Le Centre National de la Cinmatographie

681

complexe de sorte rsister au danger dtre remplaces1. Discutant les tats faibles
et le processus de construction tatique, Fukuyama identifie deux dimensions qui
articulent son concept de stateness le but (dfinissant les diffrentes fonctions et les
objectifs des activits dun tat) et la force de ltat (dsignant lhabilite de planifier et
dappliquer des politiques, de renforcer la loi de manire transparente).
De plus, Guillermo ODonnell identifie les rgimes politiques institus dans la
troisime vague de dmocratisation des rgimes appartenant la dmocratie noninstitutionnalise, caractrise par des buts rduits, la faiblesse et la densit baisse
de leurs institutions politiques. Dans larchitecture institutionnelle imagine dans
le contexte dune dmocratie non-institutionnalise, les rgles qui dfinissent les
rapports qui se crent entre les diffrents agents sont structures par une srie de
pratiques informelles comme le clientlisme, le patrimonialisme et la corruption qui
viennent remplacer les rgles formelles2.
Ainsi, la cinmatographie est aussi marque par linstabilit lgislative chronique
qui caractrise largement lespace politique roumain aprs 1989. La logique des
gouvernements roumains postcommunistes nest pas dagir ou dadministrer,
mais plutt de lgifrer3 et dinscrire leur volution dans une politique tributaire
au changement permanent qui ne change pas beaucoup. Cette volatilit de lacte
lgislatif est facilement visible dans le cas de la cinmatographie si on se rappelle que
dans un dlai de dix-huit ans, treize documents similaires4 ont t approuvs par les
instances dcisionnelles de ltat roumain rglant ou modifiant lorganisation et
le fonctionnement du CNC et le domaine plus large de la cinmatographie. De cette
manire, ces diffrents documents officiels se constituent dans une premire grille de
lecture de lvolution du domaine de la cinmatographie roumaine, suggrant non
seulement les mcanismes lgislatifs de fonctionnement de cet espace artistique, mais
traant aussi une srie de spcificits du rgime postcommuniste.
La volatilit des lois produit, invitablement, une inefficacit lgislative, les
reprsentants du CNC assumant par rapport elle une position critique la considrant
comme une des sources primaires ayant men la crise effective de la cinmatographie
roumaine. La conclusion gnrale, suggre-t-on dans une synthse de lactivit
du CNC pendant 2001 et 2002, est que lex-Office National de la Cinmatographie a
d accepter lide de la rgression programme de lindustrie cinmatographique 5,
ayant affect non seulement le secteur de la production, mais aussi celui du march
du film. Lvolution de lespace cinmatographique est, dailleurs, domine par
le tournant de lanne 2000, anne pendant laquelle aucun film soutenu par un
financement majoritairement roumain ntait ralis et qui simpose aussi comme le

1
Francis FUKUYAMA, The Imperative of State-Building, Journal of Democracy, no. 15,
2004, p. 17.
2
ODONNELL, Delegative...cit., p. 7.
3
Daniel BARBU, Republica absent, Nemira, Bucureti, 1999, p. 112.
4
Dcret-Loi no. 80 de 8 fvrier 1990, Ordonnance durgence no. 67 de 24 octobre 1997,
Dcision no. 311 de 1998, Ordonnance durgence no. 152 de 5 octobre 2000, Ordonnance
durgence no. 2 de 4 janvier 2001, Dcision no. 807 de 23 aout 2001, Loi no. 630 de 27 novembre
2002, Dcision no. 229 de 4 mars 2003, Ordonnance no. 39 de 14 juillet 2005, Dcision no. 1064
de 8 septembre 2005, Loi no. 328 de 14 juillet 2006, Ordonnance durgence no. 7 de 13 fevrier
2008, Loi. no. 303 de 3 dcembre 2008.
5
La synthse de lactivit pour la priode fvrier 2001-dcembre 2002, Le Centre National
de la Cinmatographie, p. 4.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

682

ELENA ARHIRE

dbut dune mise en question des mcanismes structurels qui organisent et dessinent
ce domaine artistique.
Les gouvernements daprs 1989 sauvegardent le CNC comme un organisme de
ladministration centrale pour rgler lactivit cinmatographique. Ce qui change,
pourtant, ce sont les instances devant lesquelles il est appel rpondre, passant de
la subordination au Gouvernement, avant 2001 (Ordonnance durgence 97/1997),
celle du Ministre de la Culture et des Cultes, jusquen 2003 (Dcision 807/2001),
pour revenir sous la coordination du Gouvernement (Dcision 229/2003) et ensuite,
nouveau, sous celle du Ministre de la Culture et des Cultes (Dcision 1064/2005).
Au niveau de son administration, le CNC subit des fluctuations continues qui
affaiblissent sa structure et qui dterminent un certain comportement au niveau
des lites composant le CNC et qui engendrent, au niveau des professionnels de ses
structures une volont et un essai trouver des manires de sautonomiser.
En ce qui concerne ses attributions, le CNC agit comme un mdiateur entre le
pouvoir tatique et le march. Lintervention tatique se fait ressentir notamment
par les soutiens financiers quil fournit, par la cration du Fonds national de la
cinmatographie. Le rle assum par le CNC, travers son conseil de direction,
est principalement celui darticulation des stratgies de dveloppement, de
promotion et de reprsentation des intrts, au niveau international, de lindustrie
cinmatographique roumaine. Le Fonds national de la cinmatographie, comme
source de financement, est soutenu dun ct, par des ressources du budget dtat,
que par dautres ressources extrabudgtaires provenant des revenus qui dcoulent
des activits lies au domaine cinmatographique, dployes au niveau de la
production, distribution et exploitation de diffrents produits cinmatographiques,
part un pourcentage qui est relev des minutes de publicit vendues par la Socit
Roumaine de Tlvision et la tlvision par cble. De fait, le Centre National de la
Cinmatographie est linstance dcisionnelle ultime dans le processus dallocation du
Fonds national cinmatographique et il devient le catalyseur dfinissant les rapports
entre ltat et lartiste.
En fait, lanalyse du fonctionnement du CNC peut tre approfondie trois
niveaux: linvestigation du processus dallocation des fonds, la hirarchie des valeurs
quen dcoule dans ce processus dallocation et, en troisime lieu la tension qui se
manifeste entre ceux qui organisent et ceux qui postulent aux concours.
La chute du rgime communiste implique, entre autres, la dsintgration de
linstitution de la censure. Nanmoins, sans tre institutionnalise, une autre forme
plus nuance de censure est impose, celle de lconomie de march1. Cela est
encore plus vrai pour la cinmatographie qui est une forme dexpression artistique
particulire, qui implique un rel dploiement de forces, essentiellement au niveau
financier. Or, le changement de rgime engendre des transformations structurelles
importantes et des contraintes financires et administratives pour le CNC.
La fonction du CNC comme distributeur des ressources financires tatiques,
devient fondamentale. son intrieur linstance dcisionnelle, par rapport la gestion
du Fonds national de la cinmatographie est, en dernire phase, celle du Conseil du
CNC2 qui tablit les stratgies, les principes et les priorits quant aux allocations

Dina IORDANOVA, Cinema....cit., pp. 143-146.


Tout au long de diffrentes rorganisations cette instance porte diffrentes dnominations:
le Conseil de lOffice National de la Cinmatographie, ensuite le Conseil consultatif du Centre
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Le Centre National de la Cinmatographie

683

des sommes. Les ressources financires, gres travers ce fonds et utilises comme
soutien financier des diffrents agents cinmatographiques, sont accordes sous la
forme de crdits remboursables sorganisant en trois parties: pour production/
distribution, pour dveloppement du scnario et pour succs en salles.
Le Conseil du CNC organise un concours, la fin duquel, une srie de projets
cinmatographiques peuvent bnficier des sommes alloues par le Fonds.
Depuis 20001 ces concours sorganisent en tapes distinctes, pendant lesquelles
des commissions dvaluation sont formes: la slection des scnarios et suivie de
lvaluation financire des projets gagnants. Ce qui est dautant plus important et
ce qui pse au niveau de la transparence de ce processus dallocation des fonds est
le fait que les membres de la premire commission sont lus par le conseil directeur
du CNC, parmi les personnalits de la cinmatographie roumaine, la proposition
des unions de crations, tandis que par rapport la deuxime, elle est compose du
Prsident, du Vice-prsident et du directeur conomique du CNC.
partir du dbut des annes 2000, le manque de transparence au niveau des
critres qui dterminent le choix des gagnants lors des concours a t rclam par les
metteurs en scne qui lpoque dbutaient dans le cinma, mais a aussi t rclam
par diffrents critiques de film et des personnes activant dans le monde de lart. Une
srie de lettres ouvertes ont t adresses au CNC et au Ministre de la Culture et des
Cultes pour mettre en question le fonctionnement du CNC et la manire de laquelle il
organise les sessions de concours. Les plus en vue rclamants sont les jeunes metteurs
en scne qui mettent en question le dploiement des concours cinmatographiques,
identifiant au niveau de la prise de dcision dans le cadre du CNC, une tendance au
clientlisme. Les sessions de concours de 2001 et 2003 ont accentu un des lments
rclams car la composition des commissions dont les membres sont proposs par le
Conseil Consultatif du CNC, incluait parfois les membres du mme Conseil. Ainsi,
en 2001, deux membres du Conseil taient aussi membres du jury: Sergiu Nicolaescu
et Fnu Neagu. Le cas de la session de concours de 2003 est similaire, lorsquAndrei
Blaier, Fnu Neagu et Dumitru Radu Popescu taient la fois membres du Conseil
et du jury. En 2001, les projets appartenant six membres du Conseil Consultatif
gagnaient, tandis quen 2003, quatre projets se retrouvaient dans la mme situation2.
Plus rcemment, aprs la session de concours organise en 2009, Cristian Mungiu,
un des membres du jury, a rclam dans une lettre ouverte adresse au ministre de la
culture de lpoque, Theodor Paleologu, le manque de transparence et lincohrence
du processus dcisionnel qui tablit la hirarchie des projets cinmatographiques
gagnants.
La structure interne de linstitution a t largement sauvegarde par les diffrents
documents adopts dans le sens o linstance dcisionnelle tait forme autour dun
conseil dadministration, coordonne par le prsident du CNC, nomm conformment
aux changements du statut de linstitution, directement par le Premier-ministre ou
par le ministre de la culture, aprs lorganisation dun concours. La composition de ce
conseil dadministration, conformment la Loi de 2005, est constitue par le Prsident
du CNC, cinq membres proposs par les unions et les associations du domaine

National de la Cinmatographie, finalement Conseil dadministration du Centre National de


la Cinmatographie.
1
Ordonnace durgence no. 152 de 5 octobre 2000.
2
Mihai CHIVU, Nu vreau s fac filme la kilogram, Revista 22, no. 687, 2003.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

684

ELENA ARHIRE

cinmatographique (lUnion des Cinastes, lUnion des Auteurs et des Ralisateurs de


Film, lUnion des Producteurs de Film et de lAudiovisuel roumain, lAssociation des
Cinastes) et un autre membre propos par le Ministre de la Culture. Il y a de plus,
deux commissions censes accorder les financements. La premire est compose de
cinq membres pour lvaluation des courts et des longs mtrages, et est aide par une
commission de lecteurs. La deuxime est forme de trois membres qui valuent les
films documentaires et les films danimation1. Au niveau du CNC il y a une tendance
de reproduction des mmes cadres, bien que dans des postes diffrents, ainsi que le
fonctionnement de linstitution se forge dans le contexte dun rseau altr associ
un climat de confusion lgislative, administrative, structurelle et un manque de
transparence et dobjectivit dcisionnelle.
Dans un contexte gnral o les financements privs restent difficiles obtenir, le
rle du soutien financier public est lire selon deux coordonnes. Les financements
publics accords sidentifient une reconnaissance artistique confirme par les
autorits, mais elles permettent aussi ces dernires davoir une influence plus grande
dans le processus de dfinition de lart, de lartiste et de ce que devrait tre compris par
la qualit artistique2. En dautres termes, la question qui simpose est: en quelle mesure
les valeurs reconnues institutionnellement par les autorits publiques se superposent
celles reconnues par le public et par le march? Raymonde Moulin, souligne quil
est important de prendre en compte le fait que les acteurs conomiques et les
acteurs culturels contribuent indissociablement la dfinition et la hirarchisation
des valeurs artistiques et des rputations des artistes3. Effectivement, le rle de la
valorisation dun produit artistique revient aux interactions qui organisent la relation
entre luvre artistique, la considration quelle reoit de la part des autorits et
limpact quelle entraine dans le cadre du march vu que le march de lart [] reste
un lieu o soprent les transactions et o se forment les prix. Par-l, il est lpreuve de
ralit des valuations culturelles et des reconnaissances sociales opres en dehors
de lui4.
Vers quel type de valeurs penchent, gnralement, les dcisions du CNC et
de quelle manire cette hirarchisation des valeurs cinmatographiques, propose
par lunique organisme du pouvoir central grant des fonds tatiques destins
la production cinmatographique, se confond celle propose par le public et le
march? Comme le suggre Moulin, il est important de remarquer quun rapport
de dpendance stablit entre les opportunits daction des artistes, leur capacit
dentrer et de survivre dans le monde de lart et dans le march, dune part et les
facteurs esthtiques, conomiques et institutionnels5, de lautre. Sous cette lumire,
la dtermination du succs artistique tient en grande partie de cette dpendance
induite par les liens qui se crent entre lartiste, luvre artistique et le contexte plus

Loi no. 39/2005.


Merja HEIKKINEN, Artist Policy in Finland and Norway. Considerations for Comparing
Direct Support for Artists, paper presented at The International Conference on Cultural Policy
Research (Bergen Norway 1999), apud Dan-Eugen RAIU, The Subsidized Muse or the Marketoriented Muse? Supporting Artistic Creation in Romania between State Intervention and Art
Market, Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideology, no. 13, 2006. http://www.jsri.ro/old/
html%20version/index/no_13/dan_eugen_ratiu_articol.htm (consult le 05.11.2011).
3
Raymonde MOULIN, Lartiste, linstitution et le march, Flammarion, Paris, 1997, p. 336.
4
Ibidem, p. 79.
5
Ibidem.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Le Centre National de la Cinmatographie

685

large dans lequel ce succs apparait. Ainsi, la qualit dune uvre cinmatographique
peut tre dtermine du point de vue institutionnel et conomique et cest ainsi que
le CNC est une instance dictant une hirarchisation des valeurs dans le domaine
cinmatographique. Cependant, il y a dautres repres de valorisation des uvres
cinmatographiques qui sidentifient au succs de caisse quun certain film remporte,
au nombre dentres dans les cinmas ou la reconnaissance des films au niveau
international, travers leur participation aux diffrents festivals.
Entre 2001 et 2007, le Centre National de la Cinmatographie a soutenu un
nombre de 109 films1 y compris court et long-mtrages artistiques, documentaires
ou danimation. Des 109 films, 19 marquaient le dbut de la carrire artistique de
leurs metteurs en scne. Sur la liste de ces dbutants se retrouvent quelques-uns des
plus reconnus metteurs en scne roumains de lactualit: en 2001 Cristi Puiu avec Le
matos et la thune, en 2002 Cristian Mungiu avec Occident, en 2003 Titus Muntean avec
Examen, en 2004 Radu Muntean avec La rage, Tudor Giurgiu avec Liaisons dangereuses
et Ctlin Mitulescu avec Comment jai ft la fin du monde en 2006. Pendant la mme
priode leurs projets cinmatographiques taient seconds par dautres appartenant
une srie de metteurs en scne consacrs principalement avant 1989 Dan Pia, Mircea
Daneliuc, Radu Gabrea, Sergiu Nicolaescu, Ioan Crmzan, Andrei Blaier ou Nicolae
Mrgineanu. Ce qui est trs important par rapport la priode invoque est le fait
que la rsurgence dune nouvelle vague de metteurs en scne entraine, au niveau
international, une reconsidration gnrale de ce que reprsente la cinmatographie
roumaine. Cette reconsidration peut tre comprise par les diffrents prix gagns lors
des festivals internationaux. Un des points culminants tait vu avec la distinction
Un certain regard reue par La mort de monsieur Lzrescu (Cristi Puiu) en 2005, et
le deuxime prix dans la mme catgorie pour le court-mtrage Un voyage en ville
de Corneliu Porumboiu en 2004. De plus, les Camras dor de Cannes sont alles
au court-mtrage de Ctlin Mitulescu, Trafic (2004) et au long-mtrage de Cristian
Mungiu, 4 mois, 3 semaines et 2 jours en 2007; la Palme dOr du court-mtrage pour
Megatron de Marian Crian en 2008 et le prix du jury, Un Certain regard pour le film
de Corneliu Porumboiu Policier, Adjectif en 2009.

Conclusions
La problmatique centrale releve par notre article tait la manire de laquelle le
fonctionnement du Centre National de la Cinmatographie pouvait rendre compte
du caractre faible de ltat roumain compris dans les termes de Francis Fukuyama
et de Guillermo ODonnell comme une habilit rduite de planifier les politiques et
de renforcer la loi de faon transparente, darticuler les dcisions politiques. Lactivit
du CNC est comprendre surtout par rapport un phnomne qui caractrise le
postcommunisme roumain et qui est celui de la volatilit lgislative. Elle entraine
la constitution dune srie de rseaux qui se fondent sur un ensemble de pratiques
informelles influenant souvent les dcisions prises lors des sessions annuelles
dallocation des aides financires la cinmatographie.

1
Annuaire statistique de la cinmatographie, Le Centre National de la Cinmatographie,
Bucureti, 2006 .

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

686

ELENA ARHIRE

Certainement, le Centre National de la Cinmatographie dtient un rle


important dans lconomie de lart cinmatographique roumain. Raliser un film
dans la Roumanie postcommuniste savre un processus difficile, notamment du
point de vue financier et cause du fait que le cinma roumain nest pas considr
comme une industrie culturelle mais plutt en tant que cinma dart ou dauteur. En
gnral, les films sont raliss avec un budget compos des sommes provenant de
divers producteurs cinmatographiques, mais ce quil est essentiel pour le ralisateur
est de pouvoir, lui-aussi et tout dabord, fournir une partie de largent ncessaire.
Cest dans cette logique que laccs aux ressources concdes par le Fonds national
de la cinmatographie simpose comme une condition imprative dans le processus
de ralisation dun film. Lvaluation des projets cinmatographiques, au moment
des sessions de concours, se constitue, dans une rflexion des avatars que prend
pour le CNC lide de valeur cinmatographique. On emploie ce syntagme car il
traduit une certaine manire de voir et dinterprter un projet cinmatographique, un
certain contenu de principes qui dcident au sujet des projets aptes pour recevoir un
financement de ltat.
En dfinitive, il est question de souligner le fait que larticulation du fonctionnement institutionnel du CNC permet la cration dun espace de dbat entre deux des
dimensions que Juan Linz et Alfred Stepan identifient comme tant essentielles dans
lvolution du processus de consolidation dmocratique: la socit politique et la
socit civile1. De cette perspective et compltant ainsi le tableau de la consolidation
dmocratique, on conclut avec la dfinition sous laquelle Claude Lefort apprhende
la dmocratie comme forme de socit qui lierait deux phnomnes sociaux: le conflit
et, par son biais, linstitution symbolique de la socit2. En proposant un espace
domin par le dbat continuel au sujet de la lgitimit et de lillgitimit politique, la
dmocratie trouve son centre dquilibre par la transformation symbolique du conflit
en socit3.

Juan LINZ, Alfred STEPAN, Problems...cit., pp. 7-8.


Claude LEFORT, Democracy and Political Theory, Polity Press, Cambridge, 1988, p. 11.
3
Ibidem, pp. 39-41.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Continuiti i contraste n spaiul artistic postcomunist romnesc

687

Continuiti i contraste n spaiul artistic


postcomunist romnesc
CRISTINA STOENESCU
Postcomunismul romnesc se definete n raport cu tranziia spre democraie. n
acest sens sunt de acord cu Alexandra Ionescu n definirea acestor concepte drept o
convenie de limbaj1. Diferena dintre cele dou este reprezentat de raportarea la
un viitor deja proiectat n cazul tranziiei, respectiv raportarea la un trecut definitoriu
n cazul postcomunismului. Intervalul de timp din perioada regimului comunist
relevant pentru cercetarea de fa este reprezentat de perioada anilor 1971-1989, ultima
etap a regimului Ceauescu. Aceast perioad este comparat cu cea de instituire a
statului democratic, anii 1989-2007; cteva referine la evoluiile actuale din domeniul
artistic fiind de asemenea evocate.
Studiul de fa se ncadreaz din punct de vedere teoretic n cadrul domeniului
conturat de art i politic, care s-a dezvoltat n cadrul tiinelor politice ncepnd
cu anii 1980, mai ales n spaiul nord-american mai nti n literatur, i apoi i n artele
vizuale2. Pentru definirea unui cadru teoretic am selectat ca referin conceptualizarea
artei totalitare propus de Igor Golomstock, prin care se demonstreaz existena unei
arte totalitare, fie c este o form de art oficial, art of the dictatorship, sau o form
de art alternativ, art under dictatorship3. Mai ales n ceea ce privete atitudinea
regimului fa de creatorii de art, lucrarea lui Golomstock este util pentru intervalul
anilor 1970-1980, n care artitii exploreaz noi curente n spaiul cultural.
Ne propunem s demonstrm c modificrile survenite n politicile culturale
privind arta plastic n perioada postcomunist au fost predominant de factur
normativ permind perpetuarea practicilor instalate n regimul anterior. Pentru
a susine aceste ipoteze, mrturii i interviuri cu membrii ai conducerii Uniunii
Artitilor Plastici (UAP) de la nivel naional, dar i ale artitilor care s-au remarcat n
aceast perioad, reprezint sursele primare ale acestui studiu. O atenie sporit este
dedicat studiului de caz al artistului Dan Perjovschi. Documente din Arhiva UAP
completeaz sursele privitoare la statutul instituiei i a comisiilor de specialitate
abilitate n acceptarea noilor membri, dar i asupra lucrrilor de art promovate.
Analiza acestei perioade recente este tributar raportrii sale fa de trecutul comunist, de aceea privilegiez investigarea elementelor de continuitate, de discontinuitate,
dar i contextuale ce descriu relaia dintre caracteristicile vechiului regim i cele aparinnd actualului sistem politic.

1
Alexandra IONESCU, Les partis politiques postcommunistes: une question de pertinence
conceptuelle, Studia Politica. Romanian Political Science Review, vol. II, no. 2, 2002, p. 547.
2
Maureen WHITEBROOK, Only Connect: Politics and Literature 10 years Later, 198292, Political Science and Politics, vol. 26, no. 2, 1993, p. 21.
3
Cazul romnesc este discutat de Caterina PREDA, Dictators and Dictatorships Artistic
Expressions of the Political: Romania and Chile (1970s-1989) No pas nada?, Dissertation.com,
Florida, 2009.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

688

CRISTINA STOENESCU

Etica rbdrii Spaiul politic postcomunist


Dezechilibrul instituional i presiunea schimbrii din 1989 au impus o tranziie
ctre democraie care are loc la nivele i viteze diferite conform metaforei tunelului,
ilustrat de Claus Offe1 i citat de Daniel Barbu. Acesta din urm conchide c Din
perspectiva parabolei tunelului, tranziia romneasc ar putea fi descris n termenii
unei economii politice a nerbdrii2, n care puterea politic legifereaz, modific,
dar nu reglementeaz un program definitoriu i constant pe parcursul mai multor
guvernri. Tema tranziiei, conturat n termeni finii, ntre ncetarea unui regim
politic i consolidarea democraiei ar trebui s aib loc ns ntr-un curent politic al
schimbrii permanente3 pe care postcomunismul nu o relev. Ceea ce caracterizeaz
perioada postcomunist, att din punctul de vedere al societii, dar mai ales din
punctul de vedere al politicului, este un proces de instituire iniial a democraiei i
de consolidare la o vitez foarte mic n raport cu ateptrile populaiei4. Acest fapt va
accentua nerbdarea economic5 pe de o parte i nencrederea n noua clas politic
pe de alt parte.
Dincolo de instalarea rapid a regimului comunist, din diverse considerente,
dintre care i cele ce in de slaba opoziie a partidelor istorice6, a urmat o etap de
consolidare a regimului, o politic a includerii i a nivelrii societii din punct de
vedere economic, social i cultural. Aceast politic a condus la nivel individual la o
experien a participrii la o societate dominat de practicile comuniste, care acordau
statului un rol covritor n supravegherea i coordonarea ntregii viei sociale7,
experien care a determinat o serie de instabiliti n perioada de dup cderea
regimului. De fapt, distanarea societii de spaiul politic cu care se confunda, s-a
produs n perioada post-revoluionar prin negarea trecutului8. Aceast detaare
imediat de istoria comunist este unul dintre motivele care dicteaz n cele din urm
vitezele diferite ale schimbrilor n momentul n care fiecare individ vede un nou
nceput, alienat de o ideologie care nu mai este util9.
La nivel instituional, descentralizarea care a avut loc ntre 1989 i 1992 poate fi
descris ca o situaie politic reglementat prin decrete-lege, care a avut rolul de a facilita
tranziia de la regimul comunist la un sistem democratic10. Se poate vorbi astfel despre
1

Daniel BARBU, Republica absent, Editura Nemira, Bucureti, 1999, p. 111.


Ibidem.
3
Ibidem.
4
Dumitru SANDU, Spaiul social al tranziiei, Editura Polirom, Iai, 1999, pp. 37-70.
5
Daniel BARBU, Republicacit, p. 111.
6
Ibidem, p. 54.
7
Principiul comunismului este de a subordona totul prelurii i pstrrii puterii, de vreme
ce puterii i revine sarcina de a realiza proiectul. Pentru a pstra puterea, trebuie cruat ceea ce
este necesar subzistenei sale, Alain BESANON, Nenorocirea secolului, Editura Humanitas,
trad. de Mona Antohi, Editura Humanitas, Bucureti, 2007, pp. 78-79.
8
Daniel BARBU, The Burden of Politics. Public Space, Political Participation and State
Socialism, Studia Politica. Romanian Political Science Review, vol. 2, no. 2, 2002, p. 333.
9
Kristine STILES, Remembrance, Resistance, Reconstruction, the Social Value of Lia & Dan
Perjovschis Art (2005), http://www.perjovschi.ro/remembrance-resistance-reconstructionii.html, (consultat pe data de 20.03.2010).
10
Alexandra IONESCU, La dernire rvolution lniniste. Pense et pratique dune autorit
rvolutionnaire en Roumanie, Studia Politica. Romanian Political Science Review, vol. VI, no. 1,
2006, p. 84.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Continuiti i contraste n spaiul artistic postcomunist romnesc

689

o activitate cu obiective imediate n domeniul politicilor culturale, cu scopul de a ajusta


vechea Constituie comunist prin prevederi de scurt durat, pn la elaborarea unei
noi constituii1. Romnia a fost primul stat din Europa de Est care i-a modificat legea
fundamental dup schimbarea regimului (amendat n 2003, ns exclusiv n scopul
integrrii euro-atlantice). Articolul su 33 garanteaz accesul la cultur ns este foarte
neclar n ceea ce privete rolul statului n politica cultural. De la pstrarea identitii
spirituale, la protejarea i conservarea motenirii culturale, pn la dezvoltarea
creativitii contemporane pot fi distane considerabile de interpretare.
Ridic dificulti, [] defazajul dintre standardul constituional i nivelul concret
de garantare a realizrii obligaiilor etatice [] ca i n cazul stipulrii obligativitii
asigurrii unui nivel de trai decent, autoritatea de stat este ablilitat s recurg la
utilizarea tuturor resurselor disponibile, ntr-un context dat de dezvoltare economic,
altfel spus, statul are toat libertatea de a alege cum i definete obligaiile2.
Cultura era oficial, recunoscut i promovat de ctre stat n regimurile totalitare,
devenind un instrument de propagand, fie prin mesajul su, fie prin utilizarea
anumitor instrumente pentru a influena un public selectat. Imixtiunea politicului
n mesajele artei nu a influenat numai participantul, dar i artistul, conducnd la o
situaie de cauzalitate n cerc, care a continuat s funcioneze independent n lipsa altor
factori de influen. nlocuirea alternativelor prin realismul socialist a condus n cazul
romnesc la aproape cinzeci de ani de izolare artistic. Reformele de dup 1989 au
fost mai ales concentrate pe o anumit dreptate restaurativ (privatizri, retrocedri),
cutnd i tergerea formelor trecutului traumatizant fie c aceast traum consta
n neparticipare3, n implicare direct n sistem att la nivel factual, ct i la nivel de
nvinuire, sau n participare indirect.
Societatea multilateral dezvoltat a reprezentat direcia pe care Nicolae
Ceauescu a imaginat-o, instituind noi principii n art, literatur i chiar cinematografie4 prin promovarea i revalorizarea spiritului naional, autohton. Cultura era
n regimul ceauist un instrument de propagand deosebit de valoros i cu ajutorul
intelectualilor, obinut ca urmare a strategiei politice construite n anii 19605. Pe lng
distanarea de Uniunea Sovietic, Nicolae Ceauescu a reuit s intuiasc nevoia
artitilor n epoc pentru liberalizare, lund n considerare i contextul internaional.
Astfel, el a condamnat regimul politic restrictiv de pn atunci, i a anunat prsirea
modelului unic al realismului socialist, privilegiind diversitatea n toate artele. Anii
1970 erau nc atractivi pentru artitii care vroiau s se nscrie n UAP. Aa cum amintea
Ion Grigorescu, n acea vreme nici nu se gndea s devin dizident ntruct statutul
de artist al Uniunii...dar i relaiile pe care le puteai cpta acolo puteau deveni destul

1
n acelai sens este promulgat Decretul-lege nr. 27 din 14 ianuarie 1990 privind organizarea
i funcionarea n condiii de autonomie economic a organizaiilor de scriitori, artiti plastici
i compozitori, creatori de film i de teatru emis de Frontul Salvrii Naionale, publicat n
Monitorul Oficial, nr. 10 din 15.01.1990, consultat la Arhiva Uniunii Artitilor Plastici, pe data
de 29.04.2010.
2
Ioan STANOMIR, Constituionalism i Postcomunism, comentariu al constituiei Romniei,
Editura Universitii din Bucureti, Bucureti, 2005, pp. 70-71.
3
Kristine STILES, Remembrance, Resistance, Reconstruction...cit.
4
Nicolae CEAUESCU, Arta i literatura, Editura Politic, Bucureti, 1984, p. 74.
5
Ion DODU BLAN, La politique culturelle en Roumanie, Les Presses de lUnesco,
Paris, 1974, p. 13.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

690

CRISTINA STOENESCU

de importante1. n anii 1980, regimul i-a accentuat caracterul represiv impunnd o


stare de austeritate general, care a afectat aproape toi membrii societii dar situaia
artitilor rmnea puin mai bun dect a restului populaiei2. Incoerena nivelelor
de decizie care puteau fi utilizate circumstanial, specific administraiei comuniste,
s-a propagat n instabilitatea instituional resimit dup 1989. Mai mult, nivelarea
culturii i eforturile statului comunist de a include i artiti neprofesioniti n aria
cultural au fost extensive, considerndu-se pe fundalul perioadei de austeritate c
artitii profesioniti nu mai erau att de necesari regimului3, fenomenul definitoriu
pentru aceast tendin fiind Cntarea Romniei4.
Astfel de eforturi politice nu pot fi lipsite de rezonan n anii care au urmat
cderii comunismului. Cine are dreptul de a fi numit artist? Numai membrii UAP au
dreptul de a expune? Pe lng aceste ntrebri, guvernrile care au urmat momentului
1990 au trebuit s decid asupra rolului pe care statul l poate avea n cultur, dup
aproape cinzeci de ani de continu supraveghere, direcionare i finanare.

Continuiti instituionale dup 1989


La nivel instituional modificrile eseniale au avut loc de abia n 2005 ca urmare
a impactului provocat de procesul de aderare la Uniunea European. Motivaiile
necesitii implicrii statului n cultur, sunt clasificate de Dan Eugen Raiu n patru
categorii complementare. Prima este reprezentat de interesul i prestigiul naional,
cea de-a doua se refer la beneficiile sociale i economice pe care cultura le poate oferi,
urmat de corectarea inechitii produselor pieei libere i asigurarea existenei unui
spaiu cultural i artistic autonom5.
Prima categorie, cea privind interesul pentru prestigiul naional, a fost transpus
n strategia Institutului Cultural Romn (ICR) pn n perioada anilor 2005-2008, cnd
are loc o modificare n viziunea asupra rolului instituiei. Modelul ICR reprezint cel
mai reuit exemplu de nlocuire complet a practicilor vechiului regim, prin reevaluarea
misiunii vechii Fundaii Culturale Romne (continuatoarea unor instituii cum ar
fi Institutul Romn pentru Relaii Culturale cu Strintatea i Asociaia Romnia)
i nu prin deconstrucia total a relaiilor i mecanismelor instituionale. Cu toate
acestea, nu este vorba de reconstrucie, ci de adoptarea unei poziii opuse, n raport
cu promovarea culturii tradiionale i a elementelor specifice romneti: Principalul

1
Ion Grigorescu citat n Ileana PINTILIE, Actionism in Romania During the Communist Era,
Editura Idea Design & Print, Cluj-Napoca, 2002, p. 16.
2
Ileana PINTILIE, Actionism in Romania ...cit, p. 18.
3
Magda CRNECI, Artele plastice n Romnia 1945-1989, Editura Meridiane, Bucureti,
2000, pp. 136-138.
4
Drago PETRESCU, 400 000 de spirite creatoare: Cntarea Romniei sau stalinismul
naional n festival, n Lucian BOIA (ed.), Miturile comunismului romnesc, Editura Nemira,
Bucureti, 1998, pp. 242-243.
5
Dan Eugen RAIU, Cultural Policy in Romania: Justifications, Values and Constraints.
A Philosophical Approach, Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideology, No 12, 2005,
http://www.jsri.ro/old/html%20version/index/no_12/untitl9.htm (consultat pe data de
05.11.2011).

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Continuiti i contraste n spaiul artistic postcomunist romnesc

691

duman al promovrii instituionale a culturii romne este imaginea cu care nc mai


este asociat Romnia, de ar naionalist, napoiat, nvechit i nchis1.
De asemenea, se observ o schimbare la nivelul discursului public prin creterea
importanei acordate iniiativei private i autogestionrii n defavoarea strategiilor
axate prioritar pe protecia social a artitilor i promovarea anumitor produse culturale:
Descentralizarea nu este un scop n sine, ci un rspuns la nevoia de reconfigurare
structural i instituional cerut de aplicarea principiului subsidiaritii2. Procesul
de finanare realizat de Minister a fost transferat nou nfiinatei Administraii a
Fondului Cultural Naional, cruia i este stabilit un statut autonom prin retragerea
rolului ministrului n conducerea Consiliului acestuia. Aceste modificri la nivel
instituional se petrec ns foarte trziu.
n ceea ce privete autonomia spaiului artistic precum i inechitatea generat
de trecerea la o pia liber, nu putem ignora modul n care artistul se raporta nainte
de 1989 la mediul de creaie, respectiv rolul cenzurii n regimul comunist. Pentru
Daniel Barbu, spaiul public a existat prin intermediul partidului i trei forme de
participare erau prezente: participarea angajat, participarea petiionarului, i
o participare negociat, ultima exercitnd influena informal a modalitii n
care politicile dictate de la centru sunt aplicate la un nivel micro3. Cel puin n ceea
ce privete relaia artitilor cu statul, aceasta este reprezentat de includerea lor n
uniunile de creaie, pentru a ctiga dreptul de a participa n activitile culturale
structurate, ceea ce i include n interiorul regimului totalitar. Instituia cenzurii este
cea care ndeplinete roluri distincte n comunism. Aceste mecanisme sunt descrise
de ctre Daniel Barbu astfel: nainte de toate, mecanismele cenzurii demonstreaz
c spaiul public, sub comunism, nu a fost un spaiu pus n comun de ctre ceteni
n urma unui act colectiv i liber de voin, ci, ntr-o manier oarecum hobbesian,
un spaiu inventat de suveran, adic de Partidul Comunist4. Construcia elitelor
potrivite regimului s-a perpetuat astfel printr-un acord tacit, aa cum este numit de
Radu Ionescu ilustrnd relaia UAP cu statul, care s-a autopropagat5. Prin instituia
cenzurii, nici un individ nu era izolat.
Dup 1989 o nou cenzur este consacrat, de aceast dat de factur economic,
nuanele sale fiind mai dificil de analizat n prezentul postcomunist. Dac nainte de
1989 controlul ideologic i cenzura au mpiedicat expunerea multor lucrri de art,
modelul actual pare a fi condiionat de situaia financiar a artistului6. Asimetria
resurselor de informaie, de finanare i de interconectare n cadrul pieei artei
contureaz un model diferit de cel al competiiei libere autentice. Costurile unei galerii
sau fie i numai ale unei expoziii, pot fi rareori suportate numai de artist; multe dintre
galerii aparin nc Uniunii Artitilor Plastici, iar condiionrile economice ridicate de

1
Strategia ICR (2005-2008), p. 16, http://www.icr.ro/bucuresti/despre-noi/raport-deactivitate-2005-2008-1.html, (consultat pe data de 23.05.2010).
2
Raportul de Activitate al Ministerelor, Cartea Alb a Guvernrii Ministerul Culturii i
Cultelor. 2005-2008, Bucureti, 2008, p. 23.
3
Daniel BARBU, The Burden of Politicscit., p. 334.
4
IDEM, prefa la Bogdan FICEAC, Cenzura comunist i formarea Omului nou, Editura
Nemira, Bucureti, 1999, p. 11.
5
Radu IONESCU, Uniunea Artitilor Plastici din Romnia 1921.1950.2002, Editura Uniunii
Artitilor Plastici din Romnia, Bucureti 2003, pp. 54-55.
6
Ion GRIGORESCU, Documente: 1967-1997 [catalog de expoziie], Muzeul Naional de Art
al Romniei, Departamentul Art Contemporan, Bucureti, 1998.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

692

CRISTINA STOENESCU

finanatori i de galeritii privai duc la o distorsionare a unei competiii veritabile a


valorii artistice.
Mai mult, politicile culturale continu abordarea statului paternalist, cu o
preocupare destul de mic fa de liberalizare pn n jurul anului 2005, cnd au loc
mai multe reforme n cadrul negocierilor cu Uniunea European. De asemenea, are
loc o conceptualizare a culturii, dar lipsete corpul de experi pentru a evalua politicile
culturale. Un rol important n articularea pieei de art romneti l-au avut n anii 1990
organizaii nonguvernamentale, precum Fundaia Soros, care a investit semnificativ
n arta contemporan. Cu toate acestea, n multe cazuri aciunea societii civile nu a
produs consecine dezirabile: Civil society, weak and ideologically contaminated, is
fragile to other forms of propaganda (be it ultra liberal or ultra nationalistic) because
all reference points disappeared1.
Situaia artelor vizuale a fost influenat de tendine manifestate n societatea
postcomunist, n special n ceea ce privete politicile de descentralizare, rectigarea
autonomiei, crearea i meninerea unui statut internaional, dar i identificarea
unui echilibru ntre programele sociale i respectarea noilor drepturi individuale
dobndite.
La nivel formal, regimul totalitar a transformat instituiile premergtoare ale
statului care au urmat o tradiie intervenionist nc din 1862 cnd arta era inclus
n programele derulate deja la nivelul Ministerului Cultelor i la cel al instituiilor
publice2. n cadrul procesului de etatizare i de consolidare a regimului comunist
Sindicatul Artelor Frumoase a fost desfiinat pentru transformarea sa n Uniunea
Artitilor Plastici, iar pn n 1948, au fost naionalizate mijloacele de creaie artistic
i de distribuie. nfiinarea UAP prin Decretul 266 din 35 decembrie 1950 a fcut
parte din procesul centralizrii obligatorii prin nscrierea artitilor n organizaii
profesionale dominate de ctre stat. Primul pas a constat n crearea USASZ, iar apoi,
n perioada 1948-1950 s-au creat majoritatea uniunilor de creaie din cadrul acestui
construct3. Organizarea UAP a fost nsoit i de crearea Fondului Plastic (prin
dizolvarea Sindicatului Artelor Frumoase), propriul su mijloc de reglementare
financiar, prin care s-a meninut o legtur strns cu economia planificat de ctre
stat i preurile dictate de acesta4. Uniunea deinea toate atelierele, galeriile, spaiile
de expunere, fiind finanat de la buget dar i din cotizaiile membrilor, respectiv o
parte din vnzrile Combinatului Fondului Plastic.
n prezent discrepana cea mai mare n cadrul UAP separ generaiile. Artitii
tineri identific lipsuri n administraie, numind UAP o instituie anacronic i
monopolizant5. Artitii se ntorc n apartamente, sau n spaiul personal, amintind
de confundarea spaiului public cu cel privat din timpul comunismului. Pe de alt

1
Corina UTEU, Overview of Developments in Central and Eastern Europe between
1990/2003 editat de Romania Academic Society i ECUMEST Association, Special issue on
Cultural Policies in CEE, 2005, p. 14.
2
Caterina PREDA, Dictators and Dictatorships... cit, pp. 101-102.
3
Magda CRNECI, Artele plastice...cit., pp. 16-18.
4
Decretul 339 din 19 august 1949 pentru modificarea Decretului nr. 31 pentru stimularea
activitii tiinifice, literare i artistice din 29 ianuarie 1940, publicat n Buletinul Oficial, nr. 54/
20 aug. 1949, consultat la Arhiva Uniunii Artitilor Plastici, 13.04.2010.
5
Magda BRSCU (preluare Cotidianul), Tinerii artiti acuz de monopol Uniunea
lui Zamfir Dumitrescu http://www.hotnews.ro/stiri-arhiva-1229731-tinerii-artisti-acuzamonopol-uniunea-lui-zamfir-dumitrescu.htm, 04.05.2005, (consultat pe data de 10.06.2010).

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Continuiti i contraste n spaiul artistic postcomunist romnesc

693

parte, UAP devine n concepia conducerii sale, singura instituie profesional de art,
a crei misiune este de fapt pstrarea unor standarde ntr-un spaiu cultural, dar i
politic, considerat de reprezentanii Uniunii ca fiind disfuncional1. Atitudinea UAP
fa de stat este mai mult una conflictual, mai ales dup pierderea sediului din centrul
Bucuretiului (n prezent, sediul Uniunii se afl la Combinatul Fondului Plastic). UAP
este n continuare finanat de stat, fie i numai prin achiziiile publice descrise i n
raportul Ministerial 2005-2008, sau comenzile pentru monumente de for public2.
Existena unei instituii ca UAP nu a nsemnat numai stabilirea unui mediator
ntre lucrrile de art i stat printr-un proces coercitiv, ci i stabilirea raportului ntre
artiti i regimul politic ntr-o modalitate recompensatorie. Artistul a devenit n acest
context al interesului pentru propagand i diseminarea culturii oficiale un actor
important, recunoscut i recompensat de ctre sistem, iar arta plastic a beneficiat
probabil de cea mai mult atenie n perioada comunist3. Prin intermediul Fondului
Plastic, contribuia artistului era utilizat ntr-un sistem financiar de pensii, aceasta
fiind numai unul dintre avantajele financiare de care membrii Uniunii au beneficiat.
Sunt cunoscute n acest context fondurile de cercetare special alocate pentru diverse
cltorii i documentare artistic4 i cazurile renumite ale unor pictori precum Jean
Al. Steriadi, Camil Ressu sau Lucian Grigorescu, ce au fost determinai mai devreme
sau mai trziu s accepte noua ordine artistic prin onoruri publice i mari avantaje
materiale: intrarea n Academia RPR, funcii culturale importante n Ministerul Artelor
sau n Uniunea Artitilor Plastici, comenzi i achiziii anuale sau locuine5. UAP a fost
iniial nfiinat sub un discurs deschis pentru comunicarea cu comunitile de artiti,
dar a dobndit rapid un rol mediator ntre un stat i artitii care nc mai puteau expune
n afara acestui sistem prin constituirea unei Comisii de ndrumare ce presupune
n cuvintele lui Radu Ionescu, reeducarea artitilor prin supunerea la controale ale
unor specialiti sovietici. Comenzile necesare Partidului respectau condiiile impuse
de acetia din urm i erau coordonate de Direcia Artelor Plastice din Comitetul
pentru Art. Probabil cel mai important rol pe care l-a jucat ns Uniunea a fost relevat
n momentul n care statul anilor 1980 a intrat ntr-un regim de austeritate n care
fondurile acordate produciei artistice profesioniste nu mai erau att de generoase, o
etap n care dezvoltarea centrelor culturale locale de amatori i evenimentele precum
Cntarea Romniei dezvluiau interesul din ce n ce mai sczut al statului pentru
artele plastice. UAP conferea atunci Atelierelor 35 din ar un rol de sprijin oferit
tinerilor artiti, pentru a putea expune. Subterfugiul a fost reciproc avantajos ntruct
a garantat i supravieuirea Uniunii Artitilor sub forma sa profesional.

Interviu Petru Lucaci, Bucureti, 30.03.2010.


Raportul de Activitate al Ministerelor, Cartea Alb a Guvernrii Ministerul Culturii i
Cultelor. 2005-2008, Bucureti, 2008, p. 15.
3
Magda CRNECI, Artele plastice...cit, p. 43.
4
Decizie privind normele i condiiunile dup care membrii Fondului Plastic din Republica Popular Romn beneficiaz de drepturile prevzute de Decretul nr. 294 publicat n
B.Of. nr. 38 din 9 aug. 1954, pentru organizarea i funcionarea Fondului Plastic, consultat
la Arhiva Uniunii Artitilor Plastici, 13.04.2010, Fondul Dispoziiuni legale i acte normative
privind activitatea Fondului Plastic din Republica Socialist Romnia, seciunea Documentare i
Trimiterea artitilor plastici n casele de creaie.
5
Magda CRNECI, Artele plastice ...cit, p. 30.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

694

CRISTINA STOENESCU

Piaa artei din postcomunismul romnesc


Odat cu apariia unei piee de art plastic, definite n acest context de colecionari,
case de licitaii i galerii private, mediul artistic romnesc s-a confruntat cu o dezbatere
ce dateaz n contextul occidental nc de la mijlocul anilor 1950: sistemul competitiv
al pieei libere sau modelul statului paternalist? Cele dou modele frecvent regsite
pentru ilustrarea celor dou tipuri de politici culturale sunt cazul francez ca statpaternalist i cazul pieei de art americane. O caracteristic important a spaiului
cultural postcomunist o reprezint ns apariia pieei internaionale n care arta
plastic i caut legitimitatea statutar i valoric.
Pavel uar definete piaa artei n Romnia din dou perspective, a generaiei
de artiti care nc urmeaz o traiectorie profesional asemntoare cu cea parcurs n
timpul comunismului, respectiv, cu cea a generaiei tinerilor,
copii de ieri, azi absolveni insubordonabili i artiti lucizi, refuz ostentativ
negustoria, muzeul, spaiile consacrate i mitologiile epene. Dac prinii luau
de mn estetismul i fugeau mpreun n atelier i n sala de expoziie ca s
nu-i prind din urm implicarea n istorie, ideologiile impuse i crampoanele
realismului socialist, copiii coboar acum n strad, se iau n piept cu istoria,
abhor estetismul i muzeul, recupereaz militantismul pierdut i ideologiile
corespunztoare. Prin expresiile alternative, de la happening la performance, de
la instalaie la arta video i de la intervenie n peisaj, la body art, ei devin acuzatori,
instane, activiti sociali1.

Acestei diferenieri ntre viziunile artitilor participani la piaa artei, i se adaug


drept confirmare, ezitarea Uniunii Artitilor Plastici de a participa ca actor independent
pe scena artistic romneasc, aa cum reiese din interviul cu Petru Lucaci:
n aceste condiii uniunile au ncercat s i restabilizeze activitile s
vnd, s i deschid magazine, galerii. Numai c n Romnia nu este o pia
de art contemporan, pentru c a fost o absen de peste 50 de ani din spaiul
cultural real. Arta romneasc, chiar dac a avut valori, ele nu erau racordate la
spaiul contemporan real. Artitii, ct de ct, nelegeau fenomenul, dar oamenii
nu au mai avut acces la valorile contemporane ei nu pot s mai investeasc n
el. Plus, c a disprut obiceiul de colecionare, cum era n perioada interbelic
[...] Iar apoi, pentru arta contemporan este chiar mai greu. i atunci galeriile de
art care ar trebui s produc, nu produc, pentru c nu vnd suficient, ba mai
mult, jumtate din aceste spaii ale noastre, au fost transferate unor SRL-uri
pur i simplu au fost furate2.

Artitii generaiei optzeciste care nu au fost primii n Uniune n timpul regimului


comunist, au vrut s devin membri n perioada imediat premergtoare revoluiei.
Statutul de artist al Uniunii avea nc o natur de legitimare i le oferea avantaje n cariera
lor. ns, ncepnd cu mijlocul anilor 1990 posibilitile pentru artitii independeni
au devenit din ce n ce mai mari, ca rezultat al concretizrii politicilor de liberalizare
a circulaiei n spaiul european. De asemenea, UAP a nceput s fie perceput ca o

1
2

Pavel UAR, Artistul i piaa, Romnia literar, no. 25, 2002, p. 25.
Interviu cu Petru Lucaci, Bucureti, 30.03.2010.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Continuiti i contraste n spaiul artistic postcomunist romnesc

695

instituie anacronic i stagnant i astfel un numr mare de artiti au prsit oficial i


neoficial (prin neplata cotizaiei) Uniunea, prefernd statutul de artiti independeni.
Din interviurile realizate, i chiar i din documentele de arhiv ale Uniunii, se deduce
existena unei reele de artiti care se autopromoveaz nu numai n exterior, dar i n
rndul elitei nc de pe vremea comunismului. UAP apare ca o instituie care nc nu
s-a adaptat la spaiul artistic postcomunist, dar care va fi nevoit s fac acest lucru
att pentru continuitatea sa, ct i pentru a asigura o anumit stabilitate pentru artiti
i implicit pentru mediul artistic, pe noua pia a artei.

Expresia artistic n comunism i postcomunism:


cazul lui Dan Perjovschi
Realismul socialist, stilul unic al regimurilor comuniste a marcat i creaia
romneasc. n timp ce realismul socialist a luat sfrit n majoritatea rilor esteuropene n 1956 sub influena artei abstracte i a destalinizrii, n Romnia stilul
unic nu s-a estompat pe scena artistic dect la jumtatea anilor 1960 continund ns
s rein o anumit influen n arta oficial1. Arta realist ca form, dar socialist n
coninut2 a definit cultura, cu un rol subordonat, ca un mijloc eficient i complex de
propagand. Ceea ce a fost implementat n statele comuniste reprezint un clasicism
declamatoriu idealizant3 n care substana de valoare artistic nu s-a putut regsi
la acelai nivel ca al modelului su sovietic, ci care mai degrab a preluat doar acele
elemente aparent similare crend o versiune mimetic. Acest fapt este cu att mai
evident n afiele realizate n epoc, n care complexitatea simbolurilor a fost sacrificat
n favoarea simplitii distribuiei mesajului politic4. Metoda realismului socialist, pe
care nimeni nu o cunoate cu adevrat5 s-a adaptat la discursul plastic impus de
cerinele regimului, i mai ales la controlul cenzurii, pe msur ce controlul sovietic
n ceea ce privete implementarea regimului a slbit.
Etapa post-stalinist descrie o difereniere aparent ce l contrazice pe Golosmtock,
cel puin din punctul de vedere al Magdei Crneci. Ipoteza dezbtut afirm c arta
totalitar conine elemente comparabile la nivelul fiecrui regim care se ncadreaz
n spectrul politic totalitar. Demonstraia lui Golomstock urmrete tipologii diferite
de regimuri, dar observ similitudini legate de considerente precum grandiozitatea
i metodele de ilustrare ale personajelor istorice sau cotidiene n domeniul artistic al
curentului realist socialist6. Dac urmrim modelul propus de Golomstock, avem n
vedere urmtoarele criterii pentru a defini arta totalitar:

Magda CRNECI, Artele plastice...cit, pp. 121-122.


Boris GROYS, Art Power, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 2008, p. 148.
3
Franois FEJT, A History of the Peoples Democracies. Eastern Europe since Stalin, transl. by
Daniel Weissbort, Pall Mall Press, London, 1971, p. 344.
4
Magda CRNECI, Artele plastice...cit, p. 25.
5
Aceast concepie foarte larg a realismului socialist favorizeaz instituionalizarea sa
n rile Europei Centrale i Rsritene, unde, cu ocazia rzboiului, se va instaura un regim
comunist, Michel AUCOUTURIER, Realismul socialist, trad. de Lucia Flonta, Editura Dacia,
Cluj-Napoca, 2001, p. 95.
6
Igor GOLOMSTOCK, Totalitarian Art in the Soviet Union, the Third Reich, Fascist Italy, and
the Peoples Republic of China, Collins Harvill, London, 1990.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

696

CRISTINA STOENESCU

1) Statul declar arta i cultura n general o arm ideologic i un mijloc de a


acapara puterea;
2) Statul are monopolul asupra tuturor manifestrilor artistice naionale;
3) Statul construiete un aparat de control i de direcionare a artei;
4) Statul selecteaz un stil de art, de obicei cel mai conservator, care s se apropie
cel mai mult de nevoile sale. Acesta este ales dintr-o serie de micri artistice, pe
care l declar oficial i obligatoriu;
5) Statul se declar mpotriva tuturor micrilor n afar de cele oficiale,
declarndu-le reacionare i ostile intereselor clasei, Partidului, poporului, sau
progresului umanitii, etc. 1.

Magda Crneci consider ns c n cazul romnesc este vorba de un posttotalitarism fundamentat pe dualitatea social care se manifest i n art:
Or, n cazul de fa, distana dintre realitatea ideologic i realitatea real
se pstreaz n continuare, dar, ntruct estetica totalitar monocord de dinainte
face acum loc unei arte diversificate din punct de vedere stilistic, am putea defini
acest tip de art ca art post-totalitar2.

Abordarea lui Golomstock explic n mare msur cadrul oficial, formal dar
cadrul obiectiv structurat (ntr-un mod stilizat) n dou tabere, sistemul totalitar pe
de-o parte i societatea pe de alt parte comunic prin mesajele transmise de artiti,
mesaje care nu pot evada din spaiul politic. Potrivit lui Orwell: Statul totalitar
controleaz gndurile, dar nu le poate consolida3, ns sistemul autocenzurii i cel
de negociere ndeplinesc aceast funcie. Studiul de caz al artistului Dan Perjovschi
relev simptome ale sistemului Orwellian, dar n acelai timp i realizarea propriei
condiii. Evocnd experiena totalitar, Dan Perjovschi descrie experiena uneia dintre
primele sale manifestri artistice dup 1989 astfel:
Atunci am stat nchis n camera portarului muzeului de art i am desenat
ncontinuu timp de 3 zile i 2 nopi [...] Am vrut s atrag atenia c n-am fost
curajoi, c ne-am lsat observai i n loc s ne rsculm am preferat s ne vedem
de arta noastr mic. ntr-un anume fel am refuzat s m ntlnesc cu generaia
mea altfel dect prin aciune. I-am transformat pe toi n public4.

Realismul socialist s-a manifestat dup jumtatea anilor 1960 n diferite forme,
dar n aceast etap a aprut un specific al modului n care noile generaii l abordeaz
realismul experimental5, privit din perspectiva unei evoluii post-moderniste, ce
rspunde n contextul mondial la curente ce contest modernitatea. Postmodernismul
romnesc s-a conturat ns mai puin voluntar, mai mult supravegheat i acaparat
de sistemul comunist. Generaia opzecitilor este recunoscut pe scena cultural
postcomunist tocmai datorit modului n care au reprezentat att n literatur, ct i n
1

Ibidem, p. xiii. [Traducerea autoarei din limba englez.]


Magda CRNECI, Artele plastice...cit, p. 103.
3
George ORWELL, O mie nou sute optzeci i patru, trad. de Mihnea Gafia, Editura Polirom,
Iai, 2002, p. 56.
4
Interviu cu Dan Perjovschi, rspuns prin e-mail, 27.05.2010.
5
Alexandra TITU, Experimentul n arta romneasc dup 1960, Editura Meridiane, Bucureti,
2003, pp. 13-30.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Continuiti i contraste n spaiul artistic postcomunist romnesc

697

arta plastic un curent de diversificare a culturii i a identificrii unor noi modaliti de


interpretare a artei oficiale. Acest fapt este cu att mai frapant cu ct aceast generaie
de artiti reprezint de fapt categoria marginalizat de stat n contextul unei decade
austere a regimului comunist.Tinerii artiti ai generaiei optzeciste au fost defavorizai
mai ales prin prisma blocrii accesului lor la programele UAP. n lipsa acestui spaiu,
muli dintre acetia printre care i Dan Perjovschi au fcut parte din Atelierele 35 din
ar, grupri de artiti crora li se permitea n anumite condiii s expun dat fiind
statutul de tineri membri UAP1. Dac fenomenul cultural astfel definit ar fi avut o
component critic la adresa politicului, atunci ar fi fost reprezentat de rezisten
prin cultur i ar fi prezentat acele caracteristici definitorii ale postmodernismului
n sensul occidental.
Aadar, conform tezei artei totalitare, diversitatea formelor de expresie artistic
din anii 1980 se manifest ca o critic estetic a realismului socialist, evitnd astfel
provocrile politice. Conflictul dintre protocroniti i europeniti eludeaz de
altfel sensurile ideologiei comuniste n identificarea variantelor autohtoniste n neoortodoxism i principiul sincretismului prin abordarea intermedialist2.
n cele ce urmeaz evideniez trei caracteristici ale artei lui Dan Perjovschi a crui
oper am ales-o pentru a exemplifica ansamblul de fire conectoare ntre comunism i
postcomunism. Sunt evocate: tema mobilitii, tema supravegherii i tema dispariiei3.
Tema supravegherii cenzura. Cenzura i practica de descurajare a crerii unei
identiti proprii artistice au marcat viaa cultural romneasc, mai ales pe fondul
traiului de subzisten cauzat de austeritatea impus de regim n anii 1980. Chiar
dac sistemul represiv permitea unele excepii de la regul, ele aveau loc mereu cu un
pre, dup cum afirm i Perjovschi: Thinking that you could outsmart Communism
or exercise freedom, you ended up reinforcing the system. Interdiciile de cltorie,
restriciile n accesul la cri i la cultur precum i condiiile de via foarte severe au
fost resimite mai ales n lumea artistic. Potrivit lui Dan Perjovschi nu exista o art
de rezisten, alternativ. Existau negocieri cu sistemul, cu cele trei nivele de cenzur,
cu care puteai vorbi n msura n care puteai argumenta de ce acea lucrare concord
cu cerinele oficiale4.
Tema dispariiei statul. Kristine Stiles i fundamenteaz articolele din seria
Remembrance, Resistance, Reconstruction pornind de la premisa existenei unui
prezent postcomunist conectat nc la trecutul dictatorial. Astfel, bine-cunoscutul
tatuaj cu Romnia este o declaraie n sine a relaiei artistului cu ara i etapele prin
care aceasta a trecut. Cu ocazia recentei sale expoziii din Romnia, Dan Perjovschi
S.A.*5 artistul declara:
De fapt am fcut tatuajul ca s m distanez. M-am marcat cu Romnia pe
umr ca s scap de complexul romnesc de inferioritate (Iliescu, minerii, n-avem,

Interviu cu Dan Perjovschi, Bucureti, 26.05.2010.


Dan Eugen RAIU, Disputa modernism-postmodernism. O introducere n teoriile contemporane
asupra artei, Editura Dacia, Cluj-Napoca, 2001, p. 205.
3
Acestea au fost de altfel identificate i de criticul de art Kristine Stiles. Kristine STILES,
States of Mind: Dan and Lia Perjovschi, in IDEM (ed.), States of Mind: Dan and Lia Perjovschi,
Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University, 2007, p. 19.
4
Interviu cu Dan Perjovschi, Bucureti, 26.05.2010.
5
Dan Perjovschi S.A. *, expoziie organizat la Centrul de Introspecie Vizual, Bucureti
n perioada 31 martie-30 aprilie 2010.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

698

CRISTINA STOENESCU

nu putem, aa e la noi). n 2003 cnd l-am scos, ajunsesem la un echilibru.


ntr-un fel i n 1993, cnd uram cu pasiune neocomunismul politic i ortodoxismul artistic, i n 2003, cnd m amuza rebranduirea scenei de art i
manelizarea politicii, era mai simplu. n 1993 unii erau ri i alii erau buni, n
2003 toi erau buni. Astzi e confuz1.

Tema dispariiei devine cu att mai important cu ct publicul devine prta


astfel Dan Perjovschi iniiaz nu numai un dialog, ci o legtur de complicitate
cu publicul, complicitate regsit i n alte lucrri ale sale, precum cea din Muzeul
de Art din Timioara, Stare fr titlu (1991). Dac n prim instan este vorba de
regsirea responsabilitii ca artist, comunicarea cu publicul sub misiunea general a
artei comprehensibile, gustate de ctre public este cu siguran o dimensiune a sa.
Tema mobilitii adaptarea. Pe lng nfruntarea trecutului i definirea unui stil
propriu, ilustrativ pentru modul n care artistul romn a trebuit s se adapteze
noului mediu artistic, este tema mobilitii. ntr-o not discrepant, artistul nu se mai
exprim cu instrumentele vechi, cu pensule, cu tot felul de pnze care m limiteaz
cel mai mult mi place s desenez pe geamuri, pentru c i d o dubl perspectiv2.
Mai mult, Dan Perjovschi adopt un limbaj din ce n ce mai stilizat, mai caricaturizat,
pe msur ce n evoluia sa artistic de dup 1989, ncepe s realizeze linia comun
ntre desenele pe care le producea pentru Revista 22 i modul su de a percepe arta:
Art shouldnt be necessarily politically engaged, but engaged. Artists are
sensible humanists. Our statements should be heard outside the art world. I have
something to say about my society, in the same way a sports icon has something
to say. I opted for the popular language of political cartoons in order to reach
more people and the media3.

n final, aceste trei teme majore se suprapun unei mti a anonimatului lipsa
unui sistem de reguli estetice i posibilitatea oricui de a realiza din punct de vedere
tehnic caricaturile lui Perjovschi.

Concluzii
Analiza spaiului artistic postcomunist a comparat perioada de consolidare
democratic (1989-2007) cu ultimii ani (1971-1989) ai regimului Ceauescu pentru a
verifica seria de continuiti i schimbri. Dei se observ un progres n domeniul
politicilor publice, acestea nu sunt cristalizate nc ntr-un model bine conturat
oscilnd ntre abordri paternaliste i abordri cu rol de mediaie n lipsa unei strategii
pe termen lung, adaptate la specificul socio-politic. n condiiile adoptrii fr echivoc
a unui model extern, fr a parcurge o etap de analiz a unor pai strategici n
construcia politicilor postcomuniste, reforma instituional imaginat la nceputul
anilor 90 a vizat modificarea substratului politic al regimului comunist, dar a avut
1
Alina erban, interviu n Supliment 22 de la expoziia de art 1990-2010 Dan Perjovschi
S.A.*, Revista 22, 2010, p. II.
2
Interviu cu Dan Perjovschi, Bucureti, 26.05.2010.
3
Roxana MARCOCI, What Happened to Us ? in Kristine STILES (ed.), States of Mind...cit.,
p. 167.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Continuiti i contraste n spaiul artistic postcomunist romnesc

699

un efect invers. Progresul observabil n cadrul politicilor adoptate de stat dup anul
2005 este rezultatul direct al procesului de integrare european i a activitii societii
civile n Romnia.
Cazul Uniunii Artitilor Plastici ne arat c administrarea sa, dei independent
din punct de vedere juridic, are dificulti de adaptare la un sistem politic de la care
nc dorete o anumit susinere. Aproape toate demersurile sale au fost caracterizate
de dorina de a reglementa social un statut al artistului la care instituia s participe n
mod direct. Tocmai datorit incapacitii de adaptare, UAP se deterioreaz, nereuind
s i ndeplineasc nici mcar programul social ce reprezint de fapt singura sa
legitimare. Din punctul de vedere al artitilor, contactul cu spaiul occidentul a
accelerat adoptarea unei mobiliti sporite prin adaptarea la un model intermediar
ntre politicile sociale, cele care reglementeaz libertatea economic, i cea a drepturilor
de autor. Artitii care continu s fie membri activi ai UAP pot primi comenzi pentru
diferite tablouri, aa cum amintete i Pavel uar1, dar statutul lor nu se modific
dect din punctul de vedere al unei liberti relative de creaie. Dei artistul UAP
nu mai este condiionat de regimul politic n mod direct, sistemul economic i piaa
imperfect l foreaz s respecte stilul de art impus de comand.
Artitii independeni pe de alt parte, se afl ntr-o competiie cu un sistem care
nu le permite, asemenea lui Dan Perjovschi, o recunoatere real n spaiul romnesc.
Dei a obinut o serie de premii naintea recunoaterii sale artistice n Statele Unite, i
el i privete cariera ntre momentele pre-MoMA/post-MoMA2. Astfel, n triunghiul
stat-artiti-UAP i face apariia piaa de art, care coexist ntr-un mod deformat
i deloc avantajos pentru artiti, cu politicile intervenioniste ale statului. Pe de alt
parte ns, apariia pieei de art creeaz o legtur contradictorie ntre UAP i stat.
Instituia nu poate intra ntr-un sistem de competiie direct, dar deine nc spaii de
expunere i mai multe resurse n spaiul artistic.
Aadar, n ceea ce privete relaia dintre cele trei coordonate, cercetarea de fa
concluzioneaz existena acestor continuiti i discontinuiti n spaiul postcomunist,
manifestate ca rezultat al practicilor i politicilor comuniste pe de-o parte, i ca rezultat
al meninerii unei anumite mentaliti de retragere i de izolare din spaiul public3.
Aceste schimbri nu pot fi cauza unei relaii simplificatoare cauz-efect, depinznd
n mare parte de circumstanele ntregului context cultural. Este vorba mai degrab
de un amestec de motive i de efecte uneori neprevzute de politicile aplicate. Se
confirm ipoteza conform creia au loc schimbri de tip formal-normativ. Natura lor
contradictorie i lipsa unei coerene n modul n care sunt aplicate explic lipsa lor
de eficacitate chiar i atunci cnd ele respect o direcie general pozitiv, cum a fost
cazul deciziilor adoptate n domeniul politicilor culturale n perioada de aderare la
Uniunea European.

Pavel UAR, Artistul i piaa...cit.


Museum of Modern Art din New York. Dan Perjovschi a expus acolo n 2007.
3
Daniel BARBU, The Burden of Politics.cit, p. 333.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

700

CRISTINA STOENESCU

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

701

The Politics of Roma Inclusion

The Politics of Roma Inclusion


at the 52nd Venice Art Biennale
TIJEN TUNALI
For the last decade, the Venice Biennial, the worlds oldest and largest international
bi-annual exhibition has been including both transnational group exhibitions and
national pavilions allowing a space for political exchange between the two models.
In the 52nd edition, the Biennials theme was: Think with the Senses Feel with the Mind:
Art in the Present Tense. The Biennale, apart from the Italian Pavilion in the Giardino
(biennial gardens), African Pavilion, which was incorporated that year in the Arsenale,
and the Latin American Pavilion in the city center, featured another transnational
exhibition, but this time it was an ethnic collective: the Roma Pavilion1. Thus, the
Romas inclusion into the biggest international blockbuster exhibition with a separate
pavilion as a transnational nation deserved a close attention.
Today, contemporary relationship of the avant-garde to the global socio-economic
system during the political re-formulation of Europe and the post-socialist political
structuring is as complex as in the 19th century, continuing to be both progressive
and repressive at the same time. A critical analysis of the contemporary Romany

The pavilion uses a politically correct term Roma the plural for Rom to represent
the Romanese speaking populations across Europe. The noun Rom is widely used in the
Central and European Countries as an umbrella expression. Central and Eastern Europe, many
speak Romany influenced dialect of the language of their host country and others speak no
Romanase at all. Romany groups sometimes claim links with other groups and at other times
they deny them. The word Gypsy (or Gitan) is also used as an umbrella term, mostly in the
countries out of the CEE. It comes from the word Egyptian because in the Byzantine Empire
and later in Ottoman Empire those groups were thought to be coming from Egypt. The other
branch derives from the Greek word athinganoi meaning untouchables, a Persian faction
of magicians and fortunetellers that came to Greece in the eight century. Later the term is used
in Latin as cingarus in German as Zigeuner and Hungarian as cigany (pronounced
tsigani).Other versions used in Central and Eastern European languages are Cingari, Cigan,
Cikan, Ciganyok, Cingene, Cigany etc. the term Rom [a] comes from Romany word Dom[a].
In the 1980s Hungarian intellectuals started to use the term Rom when referring to anybody
who was considered to be of Romany origin instead of the world Cigny, which was the term,
used until that date. Although, Gypsy is now often considered a pejorative noun and replaced
by this politically correct word, some groups reject the term Rom and use one of the other
terms in their host countys language instead. In turn, the Roma call the non-Roma population
Gadje (Gazo, Gaco, Gaci, etc.) that also has pejorative connotations. See Michael STEWART,
Deprivation, the Roma and the underclass, in C.M. HANN (ed.), Post-Socialism: Ideas,
Ideologies and Practices in Eurasia, Routledge, London, 2002, p. 149; David M. CROWE, A History
of Gypsies of Eastern Europe and Russia, St. Martins Press, New York, 1994, p. 2; Pter SZUHAY,
The Self-Definitions of Roma Ethnic Groups and their Perceptions of Other Roma Groups, in
Istvn KEMENY (ed.), Roma of Hungary, NJ, Atlantic Research and Publications Inc., Higland
Lakes, 2005, p. 237; Zoltan BARANY, The East European Gypsies: Regime Change, Marginality, and
Ethnopolitics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2002, p. 4.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

702

TIJEN TUNALI

representation in the Wests most prestigious art event must take into account the social
underpinnings of its politics of inclusion after the collapse of command economies,
the enlargement of European Union and the effects of the neoliberal capitalism in
Central and Easter Europe (CEE) where the majority of the Roma populations live.
Since 1989, an improved situation for the Roma has become a key condition for the
entry of the CEE countries into the European Union. New political interests focusing
on this particular ethnic group have started growing as a result, and the rhetoric of
Roma inclusion on the part of these states that have politically and socially excluded
the Roma for centuries has taken a different turn1.
It is therefore not surprising that for the last decade along with state institutions,
international organizations, and human rights groups, research foundations, and
the academic community have become very interested in the Roma problem.
Nevertheless, compared with political and other cultural institutions, the international
art world community has been rather late to respond to the cultural productions of
the Romany peoples across Europe and thus, has been quite ignorant of the historical
developments in Romany art since May 1979, when the first Romany Group exhibition,
organized by the Institute of Hungarian Culture opened in Hungary2. Since then,
Romany artists have succeeded to carve themselves a space in the European art
institutions. The Museum of Roma culture opened up in Brno in Czech Republic in
1999 with a permanent exhibition. An exhibition dedicated to Romany experience in
the World War II was called Hidden Holocaust and took place in the Mucsarnok/
Kunsthalle Budapest, opening in March 2004; another one was a traveling exhibition
titled We Are What We Are: Aspects of Roma Life in Contemporary Art first
opened in the Minoriten Galerie, Graz, Austria in 2004, and traveled to CEE countries
in 2006. In May 2005, North and Sound Lab in Vienna and Camden Art Center in London
organized exhibition including Roma artists. Omara, one of the artists in the pavilion
also participated at the Rijeka Arts Biennial. Other three artists Daniel Baker, Damien
Le Bas and Delaine Le Bas have widely exhibited in England.
The sudden interest of the organizers of the biggest international art exhibition for
the contemporary cultural production of the Roma populations has shed light to reveal
the political and economic interests underlining such international mega art shows.
The post-1989 developments, from the part of the governmental or non-governmental
structures with an urge to get involved in the Romany representation in culture and
politics, are not the consequence of a sudden and spontaneous humanitarian interest.
They are the continuation of a complex set of political, economic, and discursive
relations marked by the collapse of State Socialism and EU expansion which helped to
institutionalize Western human rights discourses to frame Eastern ethnic conflicts
and tensions in the process of the ongoing liberalization and democratization of

EUs expansion has added approximately 1.5 million Roma to the EU population; the
accession of Romania and Bulgaria in 2007 added another 3 million. However, there are only two
Roma members in the European Parliament. In 1999, the accession partnerships for Bulgaria,
the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia in the European Union specified Roma
integration as a priority.
2
During the research of this article, in the libraries and archives of the Central European
University in Budapest, I have encountered many unpublished dissertations written on
the Roma of Europe between 1990 and 2006 but none written on Romany Art, except the
pavilions curator Timea Junghous Master Thesis. The handful published works in Hungary,
Czechoslovakia, and Romania are also limited to Exhibition Catalogues.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

The Politics of Roma Inclusion

703

the CEE countries. The question that concerns this paper is double: Did the Roma
Pavilion in the 52nd Venice Biennial aim for negotiating the Romas particular
political vocabulary in need to be visible to Romany populations around Europe to
build an alternative political solidarity? Or was this exhibition part of the institutional
creativity aimed at the socio-political integration of the former communist Europe
into the global economic circuits?
The Roma Pavilions main sponsor was an international NGO based in Budapest,
the Open Society Institute, which is a part of United States based Soros Foundations
network1. Other financial sponsors were the Alliance Cultural Foundation based in
Munich and European Cultural Foundation based in Amsterdam2. Georg Soros, the
global financier and philanthropist is also the founder and chairman of the Open
Society Institute and the Soros Centers of Contemporary Arts (SCCAs). In his interview
with the collaborating sponsor, the Allianz Insurance, Asset Management and Banking
Group George Soros, expressed his happiness with the professional cooperation
which extends much beyond the matching of funds and adds that: To tell the truth
I am not a big fan of contemporary art. But I am pleased to see that the experts, the
Biennale organizers have found the Roma art worthy of inclusion in this prestigious
venue3. Apparently, what art actually is does not interest those who fund it, but to
whom it speaks, it definitely does.
It is important to note that those two sponsor institutions have been acting as the
most powerful cultural agents in the postcommunist era in the Central and Eastern
Europe countries. These institutions have been the sole organizer of annual local and
international exhibitions as well as the major sponsor for publishing and disseminating
the work of local art professionals and facilitating excess to international art venues. As
Maria Hlavajova asserts that the SCCAS: have performed traditional governmental
functions in relation to culture, including providing financial subsidies and selecting
national representations at major biennials4. Philosopher and cultural critic Miko
uvakovis term Soros Realism best describes these developments. uvakovi
points out to the similar new art produced in the Eastern Block in entirely different
and even incompatible cultures after the foundation of Soros centers5. According to
uvakovic, the function of Soros institutions is: to stimulate initiate, and provide
transition processes abridging the gap between the East in transition and the West
1
Soros foundations are autonomous institutions established in particular countries or
regions to initiate and support open society activities. Statement found on the website of
Soros Foundations: http://www.soros.org/about (acessed 29.10.2011).
2
The Allianz Cultural Foundation was established in summer of 2000 by the former Allianz
AG, now Allianz SE as a public and legally autonomous foundation with an initial capital of
50 million euros. Statement found on their website: http://www.allianzkulturstiftung.de/
allianz_en/stiftung.htm (accessed 29.10.2011).
3
George Soros was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1930. He first immigrated to England
in 1947 than to the US in 1956. In 1973 he found a private investment firm that evolved into the
legendary Quantum Fund. Soros is the founder and chairman of a network of foundations
that promote, among other things, the creation of open, democratic societies based upon the
rule of law, market economies, transparent and accountable governance, freedom of the press,
and respect for human rights.
4
Maria HLAVAJOVA, Towards the Normal: Negotiating the Former East, The Manifesta
Decade, Roomade and MIT Press, Cambridge, 2005, p. 43.
5
Miko UVAKOVIC, The Ideology of Exhibition: On the Ideologies of Manifesta,
PlatformaSCCA, no. 3, January 2002, p. 17.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

704

TIJEN TUNALI

in globalization1. Thus, this exhibition, sponsored by philanthropy in the corporate


environment of a major art institution, presented itself with an immediate question:
The EUs solution to the Roma Problem has produced The Decade of Roma
Inclusion 2005-2015 supported by George Soross Open Society Institute (OSI) and
the World Bank and endorsed by the prime ministers of eight Central and Eastern
European (CEE) countries in February, 2005. Was this blockbuster representation of
the Romany culture a part of this political solution?
The emergence of Roma politics after 1989, embedded with the 19th century
concept of national awakening also incorporated in the neoliberal doctrine of
freedom, democracy and wealth (but for a few). Such politics were an immediate
reaction of the Romany intellectuals to the approach of the command economies
towards the gypsy problem. After 1989, in attempts to be recognized as a minority, a
re-constructed ethnic identity and an open ethnic discourse have been promoted
by the cultural and political Roma elit and the state initiatives alike2. However, the
reconstruction of Romas ethnic identity was often followed by the deconstruction
of this identity with the recognition of the impossibility of such representation3. Not
only the Roma is not a homogeneous nation and thus very hard to be represented, but
also there are different types of Romany lite with clashing agendas4. Thus, the recent
political initiatives like the Roma Decade and the Declaration of Nation have emphasized
Romany/Gypsy identity as an ethnic and simultaneously transnational identity, as
did the Roma Pavilion.
During the Communist rule, the Roma had improved their social situation by
the means of their own labor without provoking public resentment. The communist
governments in the region saw the Romas long established deprivation and exclusion
from the mainstream society as more a social than an ethnic problem even when ethnic
reasons for it were given. Roma seized the opportunity to get higher education
and got better jobs than the previous generation. Nevertheless, the postcommunist
governments in Eastern Europe reversed this policy and regarded Roma issues as
ethnic rather than social5. As prominent Roma scholar Zoltan Barany argues: Since
1989 a number of Romany activists and their organizations marked the formulation

Ibidem.
See Will GUY, Between Past and the Future: The Roma of Central and Eastern Europe, University
of Herdfordshire Press, Hertfordshire, 2001.
3
The social make-up of the Romany ethnic groups, even in just one country, is wide.
For example, those who possess intellectual abilities, because of the educational opportunities
during the Communist era, became urban dwellers and could secure a middle-class lifestyle.
Musicians that work in the cities are the most respected . They are followed by dancers, antique
traders and horse traders. Those groups seek to distinguish themselves from Vlach or Olach
Roma (nomadic tent dwellers and speak a different dialect). See Pter SZUHAY, The SelfDefinitions of Romacit.
4
In contrast to other parts of Europe and Turkey, in CEE countries a new type of lite
is created with the socialist policies of the previous regime. Therefore, today, alongside with
the traditional lite there exist a well-educated middle class Roma with prestigious jobs.
Nevertheless, problems occur when this new lite often acts as the representatives of their
community. Elena MARUSHIAKOVA, Vesselin POPOV, Historical and Ethnographic
Background: Gypsies, Roma, Sinti, in Will GUY (ed.), Between Past and the Futurecit, p. 48.
5
See Will GUY, Romani Identity and Post-Communist Policy, in IDEM (ed), Between
Past and the Futurecit, and Zoltan BARANY, The East European Gypsies...cit.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

The Politics of Roma Inclusion

705

and endorsement of their ethnic identity as the communities main task1. In spite of
the diversity of Roma population, Romany intelligentsia formed their activism within
the project of ethno-genesis by which a social identity is transformed into a cultural,
ethnic identity2. As the Roma scholar Will Guy argues: Although Roma activism
did not aim at the creation of the nation state, it adopted similar strategies for ethnic
mobilization to those of previous nationalist movements in the region3. Nevertheless,
the war in the former Yugoslavia, triggered by ethnically motivated violence, had
its toll also on Roma population, as a majority of them were unemployed and thus
stigmatized as criminals. Thousands of Roma have been displaced and suffered
tremendous pain including physical torture by both Albanian and the Serb side. Thus,
this clearly demonstrates that political organization on the ethnic lines in the region,
no matter on what ethnicity, is a highly dangerous act.
Since 1989, with the new laws and foundation of diverse political parties, Roma
established hundreds of political, cultural and other organizations. However, despite
the increasing political and social attention, the conditions of Roma in postcommunist
states of Europe have worsened. In 1992 the unemployment rate among the Roma
population in Hungary was between 60 to 70% in some regions and in rural
areas the rate was between 80% and 100%4. Human Rights Watch reported on
Czechoslovakia:
Discrimination against Romanies had reportedly increased in housing,
employment, and access to public and private services since the democratic
changes in 1989. The common perception that Romanies destroyed better housing
that they received during the communist era has led to severe discrimination
against Romanies now seeking housing in non-Romany neighborhoods. The
high rate of unemployment of Romanies has been exacerbated by the emergence
of discriminatory hiring practices in both republics [Czech and Slovak], which
go unpunished by government employment offices responsible for enforcing
an employment law forbidding discrimination. State and privately-owned
restaurants, pubs and discos throughout the country increasingly deny Romanies
entry and service5.

In postcommunist countries, ethnic identity has become the issue to gain Roma
legitimization as a minority. Yet, the Roma identity politics in the EU has not been
employed to unveil the reasons of increasing social inequality; instead it has been
applied to define Roma as a distinct community, which, in turn, has triggered traditional
prejudices on them. Thus, this indicates that, if their material conditions remain
unchanged, Romas political rights and cultural inclusion alone would do little to
transform their social identity. Mirga and Gheorge warn about the underdevelopment

Zoltan BARANY, Marginality, Ethno-politics and the Question of Security: The Eastern
European Roma, Unpublished Conference Paper, p. 23.
2
Will GUY, Romani Identitycit, p. 21.
3
Ibidem.
4
Gypsies in the Labor Market, Amoro Drom, v. 11, 1992, p. 9.
5
Helsinki Watch Report by Rachel TRITT, Struggling for Ethnic Identity: Czechoslovakias
Endangered Gypsies, Human Rights Watch, New York, Washington, Los Angeles, London,
1992, p. 2. Also see Helsinki Watch Report, The Gypsies of Hungary: Struggling for Ethnic
Identity, Human Rights Watch, New York, Washington, Los Angeles, London, 1993.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

706

TIJEN TUNALI

and growing unemployment of the Roma: There are dangers of it evolving into an
ethno-class or underclass and thus further perpetuate marginality in society. Such a
development could lead to deadly conflicts with the majority society1.
The Roma Pavilion in Venice clearly intended to counter romantic stereotypes and
mis-conceptions about the Romany culture in need for a constructive reconstruction
and representation of Romany identity. Hence, overall, the exhibition represented
stereotypes ironically, at times running serious risks of reinforcing them. For an average
visitor, the most shocking was to see Istvn Szentandrssys paintings in a small and
poorly lit room behind the thick red velvet curtains. Szentandrssy is a student of Jnos
Balzs whose works are regarded as the quintessence of Roma painting. The exotic
and mysterious figures and wild horses depicted in vivid colours with high contrast
were literally the embodiments of the Romany stereotype of the 19th century art and
literature. The works left the audience puzzled and confused but did not shock as
usually is the expected case in such a contemporary art space. Szentandrssys genre
appeals to a certain orientalist gaze by showing the Roma as marginal populations that
live a life of fantasy away from modern day material realities. While Szentandrssys
paintings established the Roma as a-historical subjects, some other works, like those of
Mara Olh (Omara), ground them in daily realities of Roma. Both approaches played
on the idea of difference between Roma people; hence, while Szentandrssy showed
the predominantly white art world the dreamlike world of happy Roma, Omara
invited them to think the reality of difference along class lines.
Omara is the only self-taught artist who had six paintings in the Pavilion, all oil-onfiberboard, and all painted in cobalt blue and white. These sincere and conversational
canvases told the stories of tragic events in Omaras life. The text painted along with
figures is in Hungarian and helps the viewer to realize once again that all those
tragic events not only occur because of the larger societys xenophobic conceptions
of Romas distinct cultural practices but because of their distinct socio-economic
condition. The heartfelt confessions and intimate personal experiences of a Romany
woman were laid in a simple but very dialogical style. The dates and inscriptions put
the Romany existence in Hungary in a historical context that called for a historical
change to overcome the obstacles that Omara faced in her life as a lower class citizen.
The incorporation of the text immediately broke the narrative, which could otherwise
be interpreted as nave, monochromatic, story-telling. Omaras paintings stood as
historical documents to the real social existence of Roma as opposed to imaginary
constructions of Romany existence as often was the case in the Romantic canon.
Self-segregation on ethnic discourses not only constructs an ill political agenda
but it also obscures the common interest of disenfranchised Roma and their gadje
neighbors. This only deepens the problematic relationship between ethnic identity and
political power as experienced more recently in the region. Moreover, any political
expression could be more easily suppressed if it takes the form of ethnic rather than class
difference. Another artist that was aware of this was Delaine le Bas, who constructed a
form of physical segregation in her work to use it as a metaphor to criticize the EUs
language of inclusion that left the social condition of the Roma unchanged.
Delaine le Bas used the attic of the Palazzo Pisani for her installation called Meet
Your Neighbors. The entrance of the small room was blocked by a piece of red ribbon.

1
A. MIRGA, N. GHEORGE, The Roma in the Twenty-First Century: Project on Ethnic Relations
Policy Paper, PER, Princeton, 1997, pp. 24-25.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

The Politics of Roma Inclusion

707

On this threshold, the red ribbon stood as a reminder of an immediate reality of the
division between this imagined space and the real sites of Roma existence that has
been excluded from the laws of equal representation. The visitor could not trespass
the threshold of this marginal space, which represented the sites actually occupied
by Roma in the fringes of the cities. The jewelry boxes and jewelries, old dolls, used
wedding dress, old family pictures and old pocket watches, presented themselves
mysterious fetishes to constitute an imagined space of the world of the Roma. But
when looked closely one also noticed more mundane items of everyday life like
pencils, an old toolbox, worn shoes, cracked bottles and a desk clock, etc. The stuff,
looking like stolen items typically found in underground gypsy markets, were mixed
with non-exchangeable items like family pictures and half empty bottles of water.
The imagination of the viewer was then forced to oscillate between constructed
romanticism and the reality of dispossession in the world of Roma. Romas marginal
condition in Europe for 700 years is the result of external as well as internal social
dynamics in multiple dimensions. The dominating logic of their segregation as
inferior ethnic groups in the CEE countries extends from the local beliefs that
Roma are not just ethnically distinct from other groups but a sub-human species1.
With the exception of Romania, where until the mid-19th century the Roma were held
slaves, there was no institutional enforcement for the racism and discrimination of
those populations across Europe as in the case of blacks in the USA and South Africa2.
However, negative and damaging stereotypes, violent encounters and hatred towards
this diasporic population have been tied to local beliefs, prejudices, and ignorance
that have persisted until today.
The First Roma Pavilion was titled Paradise Lost, deriving from the Bohemian
desire of searching for an idealized world of the gypsies. As the curator Timea Junghaus
explained in the exhibitions pamphlets and the press release: If the terra incognita of
exotic gypsies has been the target of escape since 19th century modernism for Europe,
have we all lost our search for Paradise?3. The non-European the Roma, the Arab,
the African and the Asian played a critical role not only in the practices but also in
the invention of the avant-garde. Nevertheless, the role of the Western avant-garde in
the politics of race and discrimination has often been contradictory. At the end of the
19th Century in Europe, the European middle class bohemians developed an ontological
language (a type of orientalist gaze that fetshisizes the way of living of the Other)
utilizing the cultural practices of the outsider the outcasts of the society. In order
to deal with the alienation and the day-to-day chaos in their contemporary society
and while they raised the public awareness on the social existence of these types of
minorities by criticizing the social system, bohemians marginalized themselves from
society as well.

Will GUY, Romani Identity cit, p. 4.


Michael STEWART, Deprivationcit, p. 146. As Donald Kenrick argues, the Romany
came to Romania from Byzantine territory and worked as casual laborers and traveling
craftsmen but because of poverty they were forced to settle down in one place as serfs of
the local lords. Soon from serfdom they descended to slavery because they were considered
as inferior to the Romanian serfs. Donald KENRICK, Gypsies: From the Ganges to the Thames,
University of Hertfordshire Press, Hertfordshire, 2004, p. 49.
3
Press Release, Paradise Lost: The First Roma Pavilion, 52. International Art Exhibition: La
Biennale di Venezia, 2007, p. 2.
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

708

TIJEN TUNALI

In the Paris Exposition of 1855, the fierce bohemian Gustav Courbet, artist known
for his revolutionary political attitude and activism, in his Pavillion du Ralisme did
not use the Roma/Gypsies as subjects like his contemporaries but responded to their
bohemian subjectivity by placing his spatial remark in this colonialist exhibition
space1. Nevertheless, his voice was objectified as another exotic display and was
legitimized as a part of the spectacle. Thus, his political style of bohemianism was
converted into a mere artistic style within the space of cultural hegemony. Soon,
bohemianism in Europe, as an aesthetic as well as a political stance, was converted
into a mere artistic style in the dominant spaces of exhibition. 19th century European
Literature also examined European Gypsies in terms of their romanticized societal and
aesthetic roles. For example Alexander Pushkin was the precursor of such genre, which
idealized romantic nomadism, or rebellious bohemian existence, often obscuring
how this type of identity were used to serve the interests and pleasure of Russian
Aristocracy, or the interests of nation-states using nomad Gypsies for legitimizing the
national boundaries. The statement of the curator Junghaus seemed like an invitation
to the art world to include the Contemporary Roma Art in its realm this time as
subjects. Could this nostalgic call for a search for Paradise that re-constructs the 19th
Century bohemian and transient Romany identity offer an alternative thinking for
the equality of representation of the minorities in the EU, while omitting to fall prey
to the multicultural discourses of EU politics and the international art institutions?
The problem is best pronounced by Gottfried Wagners question in the exhibition
catalogue: Are we creating an ethnicising, socially motivated special case, sponsored
by philanthropy, in the hybrid environment of the art establishment?2.
Gabi Jimanez is a Flamenco Gypsy from Spain who produces colorful and
joyful paintings of caravans and gypsies to invoke moments of joy in the collective
memory of the Roma/Gypsies. The pavilion displayed five of his canvases that
expressed graphic qualities with the endless repetition of human forms and caravans
together. Interestingly one of the two works exhibited on the narrow corridor of the
Palazzo was quite different. His oil on canvas work titled Caravans and Cypresses is
an obvious homage to Van Gogh and to the Salon displays of the late 19th and early
20th Century. From a distance, the painting looks like an imitation of a Van Goghs
work with cypresses to which small caravans are seen behind the low hills. Jimanezs
attempt to interweave the caravans into the impressionist space of one of the most
celebrated avant-garde artists of the Western art is remarkable. The white caravans
with colorful windows, showing Roma traveling through the European landscape,
gradually disappear and then reappear behind the cypresses. A caravan is a major
symbol in Roma identity both in Gadje (white) and Gypsy culture and also worked as
a logo for the exhibitions public relations campaign. It signifies the Roma way of life
almost like a flag of a nation. The humorous approach to the caravan symbol was the
artists imminent strategy for a cultural and political affirmation. Jimenezs inclusion
of the prominent symbol of the Romany culture into the space of the impressionist
1
Five years before the Paris Exposition Courbet declared his new summoned identity
to his friend in a letter: In our oh-so-civilized society, it is necessary for me to lead the life
of a savage [] To that end, I have just set out on the great, independent, vagabond life of
the gypsy. Marylyn R. BROWN, Gypsies and Other Bohemians: The Myth of the Artist in the
Nineteenth-Century France, UMI research Press, Ann Arbor, 1985, p. 4.
2
Gottfried WAGNER, The Roma Pavilion in Venice: A Bold Beginning, in Exhibition
Catalogue: Paradise Lost, Open Society Foundations, Budapest, 2007, p. 36.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

The Politics of Roma Inclusion

709

landscape on one hand, provokes the romantic/orientalist gaze of the 19th century
avant-garde in a humorous way; on the other hand, it questions the political and
cultural persistence of this gaze in todays cultural vocabulary.
Damian Le Bas, who himself is not a Roma but his wife is, covered the two walls
of a room in the Palazzo Pisani with his humorous images of Roma on printed maps.
With a cartoonist drawing style, Le Bas manipulated and re-made the map of England
and of other parts of the world with exaggerated Gypsy facial features drawn on them.
Some maps showed the travel routes of Roma and the geographic sites where they
reside now. Le Bass work engaged in a close critique of the spatialization of the Eurocentric discourses and 19th century state formations. It could also be interpreted as an
ironic twist of the Romany existence, now being used to legitimize transnationalism
and borderlesness of the neoliberal Europe and the contemporary politics of the EU,
as opposed to legitimizing national borders by using the nomadic Romany existence
as an example, as was the case in the 19th century Europe.
Hitherto often labeled as kitsch, decorative and nave by the art critics in
the hubs of the institutional art world in Europe, some Romany artist in this Pavilion
chose to ignore such labeling. On the paintings of Gabi Jimanez and Kiba Lumberg,
in Delain Le Bass installations, and Nihad Nino Pusijas photographs, decorativeness
and kitsch became the common stylistic language of the Romany art. On the other
hand, works such as Andrs Kllais sculpture Fat Barbie (2006), Dusan Ristics
installation entitled Global Warming (2007), Jen Andr Raatzschs mixed media
work Sommersault (2005) and Mihaela Ionela Cmpeanu large scale sculpture Wings
(2007) adopted the universal form of contemporary visual language; thus, making no
reference to Romany culture stylistically or conceptually.
Tibor Baloghs installation Rain of Tears in the main room of the first floor in
the Palazzo Pisani was attributed to the Nazi Holocaust. This installation was the
continuation of the work the artist did for the Roma exhibition, which took place in
the Mucsarnok/Kunsthalle in Budapest three years earlier. In the 1930s in Germany,
the Roma were made the objects of pseudo-scientific racial research alongside the
Jews. During the World War II, the Roma were also subjected to massive deportations
and annihilation: an estimated 500 000 Roma were killed during the Nazi Holocaust.
In the Mucsarnok/Kunsthalle Balogh constructed a booth and covered its wall with
documents, articles and photos of the Holocaust of the Roma. He also placed hundreds
of test tubes outside the booth and encouraged the viewer to go inside the booth with
a test tube. The viewer, after having seen the incredibly devastating evidence of the
Holocaust could collect his/her tears in the test tube. Hundreds of those test tubes
were hung off the ceiling of the main salon in Romany Pavilion. The artist, then, hung
them up around the booth. Indeed, it was the reflection of the viewer that not only
gave the work its meaning, but it also literally materialized the installation itself in
this exhibition. The test tubes hanging down like glass raindrops created an eerie
feeling that, from the days of Nazi holocaust, not so much have changed when it
comes to social condemnation of the Roma in Europe.
The stylistic and conceptual challenges that these artists successfully proposed,
was lost in the curatorial shortcoming of the Pavilion as a political gesture of existence
and artistic visibility. This important art space missed the difficult but possible
task of challenging the canon by strategically defining itself in it. It failed to take a
critical position but oscillated between deviance and romanticism, heterogeneity and
homogeneity, segregation and integration, Self and Other, which has often been the
case in many corporate sponsored exhibitions in the international Biennials around
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

710

TIJEN TUNALI

the world. It has widely been argued that the international biennials that proliferated
after 1989 have been intrinsically linked with corporations that are interested in
specific cultures and have often exhibited those aspects of each culture that open
the ways to their consumption. On the other hand, the cultural products of ethnic
minorities have been pushed into international art markets which, in turn, gained
credibility to certain political and cultural institutions behind these exhibitions.
It has been common in the hegemonic institutions of art and politics that the group
consciousness or self-recognition becomes the domain of a small circuit of cultural and
political lites of the group, while those marginal groups themselves are often being
even more marginalized from those institutions. This exhibition space, created by the
Romany intellectuals and sponsored by the Soros foundation, existed in a delicate
zone between the politics of inclusion of Roma as the cheap workforce of Europe
and Roma nationalism. Nevertheless, the alarming issue that this exhibition made
visible was that Roma nationalism has been sustained mostly within the lite-level
that hinders democratic control of the rest of the Roma people. Today, the danger of the
identity politics of the Romany lites lies in its appeal more to the CEE nationalists who
believe that Roma is a distinctively alien population than to diverse Roma communities
with different socio-political needs, capabilities, and interests.
No matter what kind of double edge sword of identity politics it stood on, the
exhibition presented an important step within the second wave of Roma Cultural
Movement as Junghaus calls it that seized the opportunities for contemporary
Roma artists to be included in international art events as the continuation of the first
wave of multicultural decade. Marked by Jean-Hubbert Martins exhibition Magiciens
de la terre, a paradigm shift in the Western art-world began taking place in the late
1980s demanding the international art world to embrace an inclusive approach
towards the misrepresented or under-represented groups. Nevertheless, this wave of
multiculturalism did little to expose the structures of power that have marginalized
those cultures, and often the spaces of affirmation of diversity continued to be within
the center.
The Roma Pavilion in the Venice Biennial of 2007 does not disappoint the
international curators, critics, dealers, collectors, media and philanthropists that it
speaks to. It certainly displays a modern and cosmopolitan Roma identity and sends
out appropriate signals for cultural progress. It also supports the efforts of the project
called the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015 founded by Open Society Institute of
Soros foundations, the World Bank and the European Commission (who are also the
supporters of contemporary Roma art in the international scene). The politics of the
Pavilion with its curator, funding, and marketing based in Budapest, should be taken
into account in the light of SCCAs power in the former Eastern bloc.
Although the Pavilions curator was announced as Timea Junghaus, who
works for the Open Society Institute in Budapest, curatorial decisions were made
by a diverse group of international curators and intellectuals among them Viktor
Misiano, art historian, the curator of international arts exhibitions, among them that
in the Central Asian Pavilion of the 2005 Venice Biennale; Thomas Acton, professor
of Roma studies at the University of Greenwich; Barnabs Bencsik, curator, director
of ACAX-Agency for Contemporary Art Exchange; Dragan Klaic, cultural analyst, a
writer in the field of cultural policy: Marketta Seppala, director of Frame Foundation,
commissioner of the Scandinavian Pavilion at the 2007 Biennale; and Katalin Szkely,
art historian and critic. The curators and organizers fulfilled their goal as to prove that
even if their narrative might be different, the poetics of representation, expression,
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

The Politics of Roma Inclusion

711

and communication are compatible with other non-Roma contemporary artists.


The Roma Pavilion also, without a doubt, boosted self-confidence among the Roma
and partially achieved its goal to put Romany artists feet in the international art
circuits. However, the exhibition failed to raise timely questions, such as: how could
the disenfranchised Roma groups overcome their systematic disqualifications from
broader cultural and political representations, as well as direct participation in local
and international politics, which was denied to them by the national, international
as well as Romany lite? And, what could be the ways to establish systematic and
effective social inclusion of Roma population alternative to self-ethnicization and
nationalist right wing discourses?
In order to secure inclusion to this exclusive space of art, the pavilion compromised
contesting the hegemonic formations of contemporary politics in which this Biennial
sits that define, categorize, and legitimize the Roma existence. The exhibition
did not attest the fact that the Romany identity flexible or not was a product of
overarching power relations, nor did it reveal that the legislations and reforms on the
Roma problem have been bound to conform to market norms. The most concrete
way to discuss the issues of a specific ethnic culture should be not only to recognize
it in terms of its differences from the dominant culture but also to understand its
capacity of revelation of the structural and non-structural differences within the
dominant culture and the logic that builds, perpetuates, and maintains this kind of
diversification. The dissident voice of Roma/Gypsy existence has much to offer to
other counter-hegemonic formulations in Europe and the rest of the world. Indeed,
there are still a lot of lessons to be learnt from Roma and their historical opposition to
the structures of European domination and the systems of capitalist modernity.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

712

TIJEN TUNALI

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

713

Spaces of Democracy

Spaces of Democracy

Art, Politics, and Artivism in the Post-socialist City


ZORAN POPOSKI
The establishment of a certain space in the city as public
is a reminder, a warning, that the rest of the city isnt public.
(VITO ACCONCI, Public Space in a Private Time)

Introduction
As a space available at least nominally for all citizens to enjoy and use, public
space is the location where social identity is formed and represented, the stage where
social practices take place, and in its broader meaning of the public sphere it is
where the public gets organized, represented, and imagined. Public space is the
space where individuals see and are seen by others as they engage in public affairs
and is thus a necessary precondition for public freedom (Hannah Arendt).
As a space for representation, public space is of crucial importance. For a world
defined exclusively by private property necessarily precludes any existence of a
public sphere which would be inclusive and broadly representative of a variety of
different publics. As an arena of political debate and participation, the public sphere
is fundamental to democratic governance. It is the arena where the public organizes
itself, formulates public opinion, and expresses its interests and desires in relation to
the government. Focused on rational critical argumentation and on the exercise of
reason, in Habermas model the quality of the public sphere and its contribution to
democracy depend on two factors: the quality of discourse (rational reasoning and
argumentation), as well as on the quantity of citizen participation (level of involvement
in public affairs)1. The central tenet of Habermas ideal a power-free public sphere
is the idea of consensus, rationally and freely attained among participants in the
public sphere. However, in her discussion on the kind of public sphere required by a
truly democratic society, Chantal Mouffe criticizes the privileging of consensus over
confrontation among diverse democratic political identities. Not only does every
consensus exist as a temporary result of a provisional hegemony, as a stabilization
of power, and always entails some form of exclusion2, but also the project of
arriving at a consensus without exclusion implies the eradication of the political3
and displacement of politics by morality and law4.
For Mouffe, antagonism is inherent in human relations and is at the heart of
the political realm. Arguing that the tendency for consensus and the avoiding of
confrontation leads to apathy and lack of political participation, Mouffe underlines
1
Craig CALHOUN, Introduction, in IDEM (ed.), Habermas and the Public Sphere, MIT
Press, Cambridge, 1996, p. 2.
2
Chantal MOUFFE, Democratic Paradox, Verso, London, 2000, p.104.
3
Ibidem, p. 101.
4
IDEM, Which Public Sphere for a Democratic Society, Theoria, no 99, June 2002, p. 56.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

714

ZORAN POPOSKI

the integrative role played by conflict in modern society and that consensus must
be accompanied by dissent. While there should be consensus on the institutions which
are constitutive of democracy and on the values that underlie any form of political
association, there will always be disagreement concerning the meaning of those values
and the way they should be implemented1. Instead of consensus, Mouffe argues for
the radical democratic model of agonistic pluralism, where all antagonisms could
be expressed and the role of power relations in society is acknowledged, along with
the ever present possibility of antagonism.
The increasing commodification of public space and control over it (either in its
direct forms of policing and surveillance, or indirectly through architecture and urban
planning) leads to a redefining of the whole concept of public space. Creating spaces
of order, leisure and spectacle in which every interaction is carefully planned out, it
precludes the possibility of unmediated social interaction which is so important to
democracy, and leads to greater control over the production and use of public space.
When commercial interests gain too much influence over public space, the ultimate
result is a destruction of the sense of shared ownership of that space (that it belongs to
the people) and an erosion of civic identity. Furthermore, public interaction becomes
carefully planned, mediated, and commodified.
As a result, contemporary urban public space is a hybrid of diminishing political
representation and heightened commercial interest. Unlike in the agora where it was
both a place of commerce and politics, politics has been nearly banished from public
spaces at the expense of the market.
In the countries of former Eastern Europe, the collapse of socialism and the
subsequent onset of neoliberal capitalism have resulted in a massive transfiguration
of urban public space at the hands of commercial interests. Examples include the
proliferation of outdoor advertising that destroys the character of natural and historic
urban landscapes, commercial events that restrict access to parks and squares, the
design of retail kiosks and that does not respect the local context sending a signal that
it no longer represents the local community. Instead of a free interaction, without the
coercion of state institutions - the productive, constantly remade, democratic public
space there is space for recreation and entertainment where access is limited only
to suitable members of the public: A controlled and orderly retreat where a properly
behaved public might experience the spectacle of the city (Mitchell). The image of the
public created by this pseudo-public space is of a passive and receptive community,
where the potentially dangerous social heterogeneity of the multitude has been
homogenized. The public is turned into the ideal consumer, and public space is thus
reduced to a commodity, privatized by commercial interest.

Public Space: Definition and Functions


Public space is a highly complex and multifaceted notion that covers a wide
variety of social locations, ranging from the street to the Internet, from the park to
the media, from the neighborhood to global institutions and international markets.
As such, it touches upon many disciplines, including geography, architecture, history,
political economy, urbanism, anthropology, etc. Public space is commonly defined
1

Ibidem, p. 58.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Spaces of Democracy

715

as a place (or space) created and maintained by public authority, and accessible to
all citizens for their use and enjoyment. From the earliest notions dating back to
Greek antiquity, public space is almost always urban space. This is reflected in many
contemporary theoretical deliberations of public space, where cities remain the focus
of analysis.
The characteristics of public space can be summed up in the following way.
Defined by a process of exclusion based on race, gender, class, sexuality, age, disability,
the public space is structured and delimited by law (becoming increasingly regulated
and policed). It represents a ground for political action as a site of protest for the labor
movement, womens rights, sexual liberation, and racial equality, and also acts as
ceremonial staging grounds for the state to display its power in. Finally, it serves as a
gathering place, a space of sociability1.
This dialectics of access and exclusion, law and custom, power and protest is
one of the defining features of public space which is constantly produced through a
dialectic of inclusion and exclusion, order and disorder, rationality and irrationality,
violence and peaceful dissent2.
Even though public space is generally conceived as more or less open to public
participation, it is not free of regulation. On the contrary, regulation and control are
one of its key features: it is defined by the rules of access, source and nature of control
over entry to a space, individual and collective behavior sanctioned in specific spaces
and rules of use3. Through this dialectic of inclusion and exclusion, by granting
access to certain social groups and depriving others, thus rendering them invisible,
public space constructs the public.
Public spaces are sites of interaction and encounter (in the street, the square, the
park) as well as places of interchange and communication. As spaces for popular use
and areas shared by all citizens, they are the primary source of local identity. Public
space is a space for representation, where heterogeneous social groups openly assert
their identity, but, since it is also by definition a space of exclusion, this representation
(and the right to it) has to be continuously reasserted. It is in public spaces that political
movements become visible they represent themselves to a larger audience not only
to attract supporters but also to reclaim visibility because only by becoming visible
do they stand a chance to be counted as legitimate members of society. Thats why
the right to mass in public space has always been one of the key demands of political
movements. It is where political dissent becomes visible and gains momentum, as
well as is regulated and policed. As Mitchell recalls, by claiming space in public,
by creating public spaces, social groups themselves become public4, because public
space should always be viewed in close relation to movements for social justice. It is
the struggle for rights that produces public space.
Public space is a space where excluded groups rise up to demand legitimacy
within the public, i.e. it is a deeply political space. The streets are the place where
1
See Don MITCHELL, Lynn A. STAEHELI, Clean and Safe? Property Redevelopment,
Public Space, and Homelessness in Downtown San Diego, in Setha LOW, Neil SMITH (eds),
The Politics of Public Space, Routledge, New York, 2006, p. 144.
2
Don MITCHELL, The Right to the City: Social Justice and the Fight for Public Space, Guilford
Press, New York, 2003, p. 51.
3
Setha LOW, Neil SMITH, Introduction: The imperative of public space, in IDEM (eds),
The Politics of Publiccit, p. 3.
4
Don MITCHELL, The Right to the Citycit, p. 129.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

716

ZORAN POPOSKI

antiwar activists protest the bloodshed in Iraq, where labor unions demand better
working conditions. They are also the loci of the homeless, the only place where they
become visible.

Privatization of Public Space and Visual Pollution


in A Post-Socialist City: The Case of Skopje
As an illustration, in Macedonias capital Skopje, the uncontrolled spread of
outdoor advertising has created problems so serious that the city authorities were at
one point considering banning huge billboards around the city square and reducing
their number in the streets near the center of the city, moving most of them to the
periphery (which, in itself, is a move loaded with issues of social inequality). However,
this has not happened yet.
My research showed that billboard licenses were granted through a tender
process. The last one apparently took place in 2003, with five-year licences awarded to
two companies, Eurolinija and Akcent Media, for a total of 400 billboards. However,
that number has obviously been surpassed. In recent years the estimation concerning
the number of billboards by the city authorities1 was of over 600.
Most billboards are located on the main streets, primarily in the centre of the city.
The proliferation of billboards can be attributed to among other things the low
fee advertisers pay for their placement. The city tax fee for putting a billboard is less
than forty US dollars per year2 the price of a one-day black-and-white ad in a daily
newspaper in Macedonia! On the other hand, the price of renting a billboard ranges
from 250 to 1000 EUR per month. Despite the low fee, many billboards have been put
illegally and there are even claims in the media3 that as many as half of all billboards
in the city have no license. The maximum allowed size of billboards is twelve square
meters, but according to reports they are often bigger than fifteen square meters4.
Bigger billboards require a construction permit from the municipality, but most of
them lack such a permit. Jumbo billboards on buildings should be placed at least
three and a half meters above the ground and eight meters away from any crossroad.
However, this regulation is rarely followed.
The fact that billboards in Skopje are far larger and much greater in number than
the regulations allow creates a host of problems for citizens, ranging from decreased
visibility on the main roads and intersections to physical injuries5 (and even death)6
to unsuspecting passers-by.
1
Daniela TRAJKOVSKA, Centarot ke se cisti od golemi reklami, Vecer, September 17,
2007, http://www.vecer.com.mk/?ItemID=36C09A4AF7A3C044B586C954C569CF37 (accessed
14.11.2011).
2
Vasko MARKOVSKI, Bilbord za 1600 denari godisno!, Vecer, September 9, 2006, http://
star.vecer.com.mk/tekst.asp?tid=12859 (accessed 14.11.2011).
3
R.V., Trifun rece: Dosta e, Vecer, June 6, 2007, http://vecer.com.mk/?ItemID=90860706
57939746943CD5DC7CE41902 (accessed 14.11.2011).
4
D.T., Voidnina - reklamiranje so usul, Vecer, June 8, 2007, http://vecer.com.mk/?ItemI
D=B1329B3E93234D4D926CB102A222652F (accessed 14.11.2011).
5
Daniela TRAJKOVSKA, Privatna tuzba za opasen bilbord, Vecer, October 22, 2007,
http://217.16.95.55/default.asp?ItemID=F20E148C484C424EB1CB15A4F72C5873 (accessed 14.11.2011).
6
Daniela TRPCEVSKA, I reklamite ubivaat, Utrinski vesnik, March 27, 2008, p. 2.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Spaces of Democracy

717

Evidently, the problem with billboards in Skopje is so serious that the City
authorities are considering banning huge billboards around the city square and
reducing their number in the streets near in the center of the city, moving most of them
to the periphery. However, there is no precise deadline as to when that will happen.
In an attempt to personally identify the scale of the problem, I decided to focus
on a city block in the center of Skopje, as an indicator of the overall situation. I took
photographs of all billboards within that particular block, noting down their (estimated)
size and location. I think its safe to say that the administrations estimates are far too
conservative when compared to the actual number. My identification showed a total
of eighty one billboards in just one city block. This could be an indication that Skopje
might be congested with outdoor advertising, to the point of semiotic saturation.
What may be the reason for this massive privatization of public space? Could it be
that the very idea of public space its accessibility promotes its privatization? While
it may be thought that prices of outdoor advertising are low because public space is
in theory seen to be accessible to the public, to the people, but that then they make
no distinction between a member of the public and a company, it would be useful to
consider the different historic reading of public space in post-socialist countries. For
under socialism, the street was not public space, but rather state territory. It was the
site of display of the states spectacular power as well of surveillance, where public
participation was heavily orchestrated and controlled. Thats why the post-socialist
citizen doesnt identify such spaces as public: even though they represent in the most
striking way the disorderly nature of the new order, they belonged to the state,
and therefore with the advent of capitalism, they too could be privatized, just like the
state-owned factories.

Reclaiming Symbolic Public Space:


Artistic Interventions
Artists in post-socialist countries are trying to reclaim this public space in an
attempt to transform everyday urban experience by rewriting the body of the city
with messages other than those emanating from the centers of power, capital, and
privilege. The media used range from graffiti and tagging, to political messages,
billboards, to installations, video, to murals, sculptures and many other forms. The
approach taken by all these art projects is the one Michel de Certeau calls a tactic.
Without a place of its own, a tactic operates in isolated actions, takes advantage of
opportunities and depends on them, reacting immediately. Tactics are characterized
by mobility, speed, and smaller goals. De Certeau likens it to poaching:
It must vigilantly make use of the cracks that particular conjunctions open
in the surveillance of the proprietary powers... It creates surprises in them... In
short, a tactic is an art of the weak1.

In a series of posters displayed on citylights (outdoor advertising structures),


which form the project Bosnians Out! (Workers Without Frontiers, 2008),
1
Michel DE CERTEAU, The Practice of Everyday Life, University of California Press,
Berkeley, 1988, p. 35.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

718

ZORAN POPOSKI

developed in collaboration with Osman Pezi, Said Muji, Ibrahim uri (three migrant
workers from Bosnia employed on the renovation of the Museum of Modern Art in
Ljubljana) the Croatian artist Andreja Kuluni focuses on four topics chosen by the
workers themselves: working conditions, life in workers hostels, poor nutrition and
separation from their families. Kulunis city lights project employs a tactic of overidentification, defined by Slavoj iek as ignoring this inherent obscene underside
and simply taking the power discourse at its (public) word, acting as if it really means
what it explicitly says (and promises)1. The articulation of that hidden reverse2 of
every ideological message brings into light the double-sided, ambivalent aspect of the
message. Furthermore, by focusing on what Michael Warner terms counterpublics,
that is, of those subaltern segments defined in opposition to a dominant public,
Kulunis city lights in the streets of Ljubljana explore both the stereotypical portrayal
of Bosnians in Slovenia, as well as present their poor living and working conditions
to Slovenians.
In Living in Media Hype (2002), Sao Sedlaek (Slovenia) researches the
possibilities of living in billboards and other outdoor advertisements. With their
enormous sizes and access to electricity, the artists billboards are in a way perfect for
inhabitation by different social groups. This kind of housing could exist in a symbioticparasitic relationship between the host (billboard), providing living space and
electricity, and the guest engaging in different types of activities inside the advertising
space. This project calls to mind Henri Lefebvre distinction of how urban spaces often
start as representations of space, but through their use people appropriate them,
socially producing a representational space. Spatial practices, concerned with the
production and reproduction of material life, rely on representations of space and
representational spaces to provide them with the concepts and symbols/images
necessary for them to operate.
In Macedonia, contrary to the increasing level of activism that has been noticeable
recently, artivism an activist action directed to creating change through the medium
and resources of art has been less prevalent. Unfortunately, the dominating mode of
critically oriented art has been anti-utopianism and cynicism, the endless self-ironizing
of somebody who has seen through the social rationalizations but is too smart to
be deceived that she/he can change them. The final effect is one of passiveness and
defeatism, as an act of consolation that ones own political limitations are objectively
grounded. Such a position, amidst the increasingly emphasized non-functioning of
the democratic institutions and non-existence of mechanisms for participation of
publics in making decisions on issues of general concern, seems not only the easiest/
safest way one can choose, but is also ethically irresponsible, in an Aristotelian sense
that only in the context of community does a persons life get any moral meaning.
In the project Abstract Politics (2008), the author of this paper installed his work
on a couple of billboards (three x four meters in size each) on one of the busiest streets
of Skopje, right in front of the governments building. They showed an abstract, nonrepresentational image (aggregated from Google search images associated with news
titles, thus infusing advertising discourse with covert political content) and a website
address www.public-space.info, with the idea of attracting passers-by to visit the site

Judith BUTLER, Ernesto LACLAU, Slavoj IZEK, Contingency, Hegemony, Universality:


Contemporary Dialogues On The Left, Verso, London and New York, 2000, p. 220.
2
Slavoj IZEK, The Sublime Object of Ideology, Verso, London, 1989.
1

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Spaces of Democracy

719

where they could learn more about the issue of privatization of public space. The
aim was to create conditions for public deliberation and democratic discourse in the
public sphere, where citizens who are informed, active, rational and knowledgeable
can engage in communicative action and communicative rationality, defined by
Jurgen Habermas as non-coercively unifying, consensus building force of a discourse
in which participants overcome their at first subjectively biased views in favor of
a rationally motivated agreement1. Furthermore, the project was funded with a
grant from an international foundation which was in turn sponsored by Macedonian
businesses as part of a project to promote corporate philanthropy. The project is still
ongoing and has nowadays taken the form of public polls, debates and round tables
on the issue, with the aim of involving an increasing number of stakeholders.
This particular work was inspired by the series of billboards, posters, and banners
installed in public inner-city spaces in Eastern Europe and South America by the
Austrian artist Oliver Ressler, as part of the project Alternative Economics, Alternative
Societies, which reclaims the means of outdoor advertising to present alternatives to
the existing social and economic system. In large and visible type, Resslers billboards
appeal to questioning existing power relations and offer alternatives that would be
less hierarchical, based on ideas of direct democracy and involve as many people as
possible in decision-making processes, as the artist explains on his website. Rather
than unidirectional information designed to promote consumption, these billboards
are intended to serve as a basis for discussion over what kind of society is desired and
should be created by the people living in it. Billboards are considered by the artist
as arenas of the imagination. Imagination is a very powerful liberating tool. If you
cannot imagine something different you cannot work towards it, explains Marge
Piercy in a video interview conducted for the project.
Using a plethora of propaganda devices, in his ongoing project Territories
(2004-), Igor Toevski (Macedonia) has been declaring and establishing independent
Free Territories by means of drawing physical borderlines and using propaganda
devices. Within the outlined borders of the Territory, any activity or object is declared
an artistic action or art object. Liberating public space from various pretexts and
turning the citizen into a free artist in that particular marked public space is one of
the goals of the project. But, at the same time, it is also a strong commentary on the
practice of collective mark making in space to establish the boundaries of ones own
territory, to distinguish ones identity from that of others, to claim a piece of land
ones own, which has been so evident in the years of the dissolution of post-socialist
Yugoslavia. In 2009, one of his works in the Territories project, a yellow cross drawn
in the main square in Skopje, was hastily removed by the city authorities in less than
ten hours after it was made by the artist, even though the artist acquired the necessary
license to create and display his work in that public space. The cross was drawn on a
particular spot in the main square where the Macedonian conservative government
planned to reconstruct an Orthodox church from 1926, based on the idea that every
European capital has a cathedral. The plans to reconstruct the Church in the city
square are part of a much larger Government project entitled Skopje 2014, which
includes a wide range of singular interventions in the center of Skopje, such as neobaroque public buildings, equestrian statues, public monuments, and fountains, even

1
Jurgen HABERMAS, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity: Moral Consciousness and
Communicative Action, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1990, p. 315.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

720

ZORAN POPOSKI

a Triumphant Arch, in a PR effort to establish Macedonian identity in reference to


European, Christian, and bourgeois values, by eradicating its Oriental and Islamic
Past. With its monuments of Macedonian historic figures, going all the way back to
Alexander the Great perching on top of a thirty meters high fountain, the main city
square has become a hotspot of symbolic demarcation of identity, as well as a major
point of contention between the different communities in the city. The announced
reconstruction of the Orthodox church in the main square immediately provoked
a demand by the Islamic religious community to simultaneously reconstruct a 15th
century mosque, also in the main city square.
I knew about the paranoia surrounding this space, but were talking about
public space and a work of art What is important for me at the moment is that
my work has been interrupted I want to finish it. Whoever erased the work was,
in fact, the first artist in my free space. Although they did that purposefully and
didnt participate spontaneously in my creative space, but acted on somebodys
orders, they were first nonetheless,

the artist stated in the interview for a daily newspaper one day after his work was
painted over with grey and effectively erased from the asphalt of the street1. For
Toevski, the artist is a citizen, too, who reacts to social problems in the city just like
everyone else, without siding with any camp.
Another project by the author of this paper, The Right to the City (2008-2010),
was installed as a billboard in the main city square in Skopje, Macedonia, in June
2009. Utilizing Situationist tactics and focusing on a collective utopian intervention
into urban geography, this year-long participatory art project explored issues of
ownership of public space, as well as citizens power to write urban memory as
represented by the names of public space in the city of Skopje, thus reappropriating
the urban landscape which belongs to all citizens. Phase one of the project started in
October 2008, with a publication of an open call to the citizens of Skopje for submitting
proposals for changes to the names of streets, bridges, parks and squares in Skopje,
published on the 8th of October 2008 as an ad in the largest daily newspaper in
Macedonia, Dnevnik. The project was not only a commentary on the familiar practice
of post-socialist regimes to rewrite material history and the cultural memory of the
cities by employing various methods ranging from
subtle (surrounding of communist landmarks with tall buildings) through the
obvious (renaming of streets, squares, metro stations; giving old communist
buildings new names and functions) to the irreversible and, thus, most
controversial (the razing of socialist architecture and monuments)2.

The objective was also to employ a wide participatory process so as to arrive to


an urban topography that would be inclusive of all, and consist not of narratives of
conquerors, heroes and wars, which only serve to divide the different communities of
1
A. DIMOSKA, J. FRANGOVSKA, oltiot krst to gi vozbudi crvenite, Nova Makedonija,
October 17, 2009, http://www.novamakedonija.com.mk/NewsDetal.asp?vest=10179929412&i
d=16&setIzdanie=21814 (accessed 14.11.2011).
2
Agata LISIAK, Disposable and Usable Pasts in Central European Cities, Culture
Unbound, vol. 1, 2009, p. 431.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Spaces of Democracy

721

the multicultural city of Skopje (as highlighted in the fact that predominantly ethnic
Macedonian municipalities would choose Macedonian historic dates and figures,
while predominantly ethnic Albanian municipalities would chose the names of
Albanian historic dates and figures, often conflicting in their readings of history).The
open call stated:
The city of Skopje is not defined by its buildings or other facilities. This
city is defined by its inhabitants, with their family ties, labor relations, with their
knowledge and actions. It is not made up of the past, but of the present which
is continuously being created by the people living in it. Public spaces in the city,
such as squares, parks, streets and bridges, which belong to all citizens, should
reflect that fact. They should carry the names of people living and working in
this city today, celebrate each one of us and not just historic figures. They should
mark important dates in our lives, and not the past. Therefore, fellow citizens,
we call upon you to suggest new names for the public spaces in our city. Lets
name them after:
current inhabitants of Skopje who are good parents, partners, friends,
neighbors, collaborators;
dates marking important events in our everyday lives (birthdays,
weddings, etc.);
our favorite things, such as colors, sounds, activities, etc.
Please submit your proposals along with a brief explanation (no more
than half a page) online at www.public-space.info or mail them to CC Tocka,
6 Antonio Grubisic, 1000 Skopje. All proposals will be forwarded to the Skopje
City Council.
Lets make this city truly ours. (Open Call to the Citizens of Skopje)

In the second stage, realized as part of the public art exhibition The Beautiful
City Will Rise Up Again, curated by Maja ankulovska-Mihajlovska, all proposals
by the citizens of Skopje collected in the previous nine months (more than seventy)
were included in a new map of Skopje, exhibited as a billboard on the central square
in Skopje for a period of one week, along with a one-day performance by the artist,
in which I entered into dialogue with passers-by about their opinion of the initiative
and solicited proposals for new names. A survey of passers-by was conducted so
as to explore their opinion on public spaces in Skopje and solicit new proposals.
Furthermore, citizens were encouraged to write down street names directly on the
map. All collected proposals, with documentation of the process, were eventually
officially submitted to the Skopje City Council, as the body which has the authority to
change the names of the streets.
This particular project was also inspired by the practice, developed in the
1970s, of former Yugoslav artist Braco Dimitrijevi (born in Sarajevo, now living
in Paris). Questioning cultural and material values, conventions and authorities,
Dimitrijevi celebrated the importance of the ordinary and the overlooked in his
tactical use of instruments of historic memory/glorification: monuments (David
Harper, London, 1972 and Obelisk Beyond History a thirty three-feet Carraramarble monument celebrating March 11, a date randomly chosen by a passer-by),
plaques (with inscriptions such as John Foster lived here 1961-1968; This could be
a place of historic importance), busts, street signs, list of randomly chosen names,
etc. honoring unknown persons and events. What I wanted to do was to create a
reversal in meaning... Since urban space is so saturated with messages of culture
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

722

ZORAN POPOSKI

and dominant ideologies, what I set out to do was to create another space, wrote
Dimitrijevi1. Understanding that public space is a semantic structure which produces,
accommodates and reflects ideological constructs, Dimitrijevis aim was for urban
dwellers to establish a new relationship with their environment, and through that
achieve nothing less than a different way of thinking and acting:
Inasmuch as man encounters new content within old forms of presentation,
and inasmuch as the possibility exists that he comprehends it, it may be presumed
that in the future he will begin to doubt in the exclusiveness of one-way
information. This may also result in a new system of associations outside the
realm of established, canonized form2.

According to Dimitrijevi, an artist is primarily someone who acts in public


space. With a strong understanding of the public context, his inscribing of alternative
semiotic content into the city by means of interventions in public space established a
new type of relation between urban topography and public art.

Conclusion
As one of the essential instruments of promoting (or even better, enforcing)
consumption on a previously unseen scale, billboards (and outdoor advertising
in general) have significantly altered both the notion and the experience of public
space. Their all-pervasive presence in the city ensures that not a single moment
of distracted strolling in the city could be spent in the absence of the commodity
image3. Buying their way into public spaces, commercial interests are threatening
to reduce the production of meaning in the public arena to a one-way information
flow, transforming citizens into passive recipients. The marketing overload caused by
this barrage of commercial sound effects4 significantly diminishes any meaningful
opportunities for freedom of speech, with detrimental effects on democracy, for as
Peter Sloterdijk underlines, where there is no place for a countervailing power, there
fear, constraint and slavish observation rule5.
The new economic practices of reappropriating and restructuring public space,
coupled with the absence of a truly public sphere defined by critical dialogue, increase
the necessity and the urgency for alternative discourses to the official one dominated
by advertising. And this is where public art, of the activist or politically engaged type,
can offer powerful resistance to the power structures, both through its critique of
commercial abuse of public spaces as well as through refashioning the urban landscape
beyond the old spatial hierarchies and segregation. As Vito Acconci points out:
1

Braco DIMITRIJEVIC, Interview with Jean-Hubert Martin (2005), Slought Foundation,


2007, http://slought.org/content/11365/ (accessed 15.05.2008).
2
Gallery of Contemporary Art, Braco Dimitrijevi, Zagreb, Gallery of Contemporary Art,
no. 191, February 8-25, 1973.
3
Benjamin H.D. BUCHLOCH, From Detail to Fragment: Dcollage Affichiste, October,
vol. 56, Spring 1991, p. 100.
4
Naomi KLEIN, No Logo, Flamingo, London, 2000, p. 196.
5
Peter SLOTERDIJK, Atmospheric Politics, in Bruno LATOUR, Peter WEIBEL (eds),
Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2005, p. 951.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Spaces of Democracy

723

The built environment is built because its been allowed to be built. Its
been allowed to be built because it stands for and reflects an institution or a
dominant culture. The budget for architecture is a hundred times the budget
for public art because a building provides jobs and products and services that
augment the finances of the city... Instead of bemoaning this, public art can use
this marginal position to its advantage: public art can present itself as the voice
of marginal cultures, as the minority report, as the opposition party. Public art
exists to thicken the plot1.

In this, critical public art thus becomes a parrhesiastic practice, the form of
fearless speaking in public that Michel Foucault wrote about, the telling of truth in
front of others regardless of the consequences, or in the final instance, freedom of
speech. It becomes civic art, the type of art that promotes and creates civic values,
invites and fosters citizen participation in public affairs, all of which are essential to
the functioning of democracy as a discursive space. And in doing so, it comes close to
realizing the ideal of public space an arena where citizens meet to confront opposing
values and expectations in public deliberation and discourse.

1
Vito ACCONCI, Public Space in a Private Time, Critical Inquiry, vol. 16, Summer 1990,
p. 918.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

724

ZORAN POPOSKI

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Post-Cold War Trajectories of Memory and Oblivion in Bulgaria and Kosovo

725

Post-Cold War Trajectories of Memory and


Oblivion in Bulgaria and Kosovo1
ELENA GKARTZONIKA
A fertile ground of research on social relations is offered upon examining the
conditions under which, groups of power engaged in a dispute for political/economic
control choose to impose social oppression, thus disorienting people in misleading
ventures for democratic consolidation. Our comparative analysis, as a method of
research, perceives the past in two dimensions: as a cluster of older realities and as
the content of the current collective memory a political issue at stake. As for the past
realities, we attempt a critical content analysis of the available evidence. Concerning
their present representation, our analysis investigates the mechanism of selecting and
reconstructing the past or how social (ab)uses of the past are formulated as collective
memory, in a process closely correlated with present socio-economic transformations2.
Thus, collective memory is not an eventual issue of remembrances, but rather the result
of prevailing forces image and their interrelations within a social formation. Besides
tracing elements of cultural hegemony3, the analysis will also look at the effects of
the ideological state apparatus on the reproduction of the production conditions4,
1
For images and documents of the two case-studies, please consult the online appendix:
http://l1-balkandecks.blogspot.com/2011/10/oblivious-memories.html. Another version of
this paper, focusing on (neo)populist aspects of both cases, was presented at the 7th Conference
in Social Sciences What Follows after the Crisis? Approaches to Global Transformations
(CEU Budapest, May 27th -29th, 2011).
2
See: Maurice HALBWACHS, On Collective Memory, Chicago University Press, 1992;
Matthias FRITSCH, The Promise of Memory: History and Politics in Marx, Benjamin and Derrida,
New York Univ., New York, 2006; Jeffrey OLICK, The Politics of Regret: On Collective Memory
and Historical Responsibility, Routledge, New York, London, 2007; Ernst H. GOMBRICH, The
Uses of Images: Studies in the Social Function of Art and Visual Communication, Phaidon, London,
1999; Andreas HUYSSEN, Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory, Stanford
University Press, California, 2003; Paul CONNERTON, How Societies Remember, Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge, 1989; Tzvetan TODOROV, Les Abus de la mmoire, Arlea, Paris,
1995; John GILLIS, Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity, Princeton University,
Princeton, 1994; Frances PINE et al.(eds.), Memory, Politics and Religion: the Past Meets the Present
in Europe, Lit, Munster, 2004; Katharine HODGKIN, Susannah RADSTONE, Contested Pasts:
The Politics of Memory, Routledge, New York-London, 2003; Matt MATSUDA, The Memory of the
Modern, Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 1996; David SUMMERS, Real Spaces: World Art History
and the Rise of Western Modernism, Phaidon, London, 2003; Jan W. MULLER, Memory and Power
in Postwar Europe Studies in the Presence of the Past, Cambridge University, Cambridge, 2002;
Christian COQ, Jean-Pierre BACOT, Travail de mmoire, 1914-1998: une necessit dans un sicle
de violence, d. Autrement, Paris, 1999; Conny MITHANDER et al. (eds), Collective Traumas:
Memories of War and Conflict in 20th century Europe, P.I.E.P. Lang, Bruxelles, 2007.
3
As defined by Antonio GRAMSCI, Prison Notebooks, 3 vols, Columbia University, New
York, 1992, 1996, 2010.
4
Louis ALTHUSSER, Idologie et appareils idologiques dtat (Notes pour une recherche),
La Pense, no. 151, 1970, pp. 3-38.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

726

ELENA GKARTZONIKA

and the temporal matrix within which, national territorial identity and socio-cultural
tradition are crystallized1, while analyzing the cases of Buzluda and Gazimestan.
As lieux de mmoire2 they both lay concrete foundations for a time-spatial approach
towards the states practices3 and their realization, turning our paradigms into a safe
indicator for the above-mentioned cadres4.
Such a manifold approach to memory materialization5 could not find a more
efficient application than in post-Cold War Balkans. Bulgaria and Ex-Yugoslavia are
similar cases in the sense that both versions of collective memory were originally
constructed in the Warsaw-Pact frame, but different in the sense that Buzluda was
constructed in a socialist country, a former national state, while Gazimestan Tower was
erected within a socialist federation transformed, after the dissolution of the bipolar
world, into a country. The political and ideological (dis)similarities also suggest the
need to take into account a socialist and post-socialist periodization.

TWO PARADIGMS OF A CRITICAL CONJECTURE


Ten years after the last wars in South-Eastern Europe, a collection of transitional
or hybrid regimes are still oscillating in a grey zone between the democratic and
authoritarian poles, halting or delaying their transformation. Corruption is rising,
division lines between East and West are perpetuated, and solidarity is in decline.
The post-1989 European democracy could have had the crucial effect it had promised
for the region. However, rather than stopping it, the pace of separatist processes
accelerated with a series of declarations, setting overwhelming majorities as a criterion
for legalizing political entities. Illusions reproduced old forms of domination6 in
times of unrest and international restructure of the haut-finance7. Accordingly, Balkan
socio-ideological life failed to abolish the impact of penetration that distorted the
political and economic contradictions8. People of the region seem ready to endure
dysfunctional states and badly-governed democracies, defusing their ire or need for
change by claiming brave ancestors. Victories, at least symbolic, seem total.

Nicos POULANTZAS, Ltat, le Pouvoir, le Socialisme, Presses Universitaires de France,


Paris, 1978.
2
Pierre NORA, Les Lieux de mmoire 2. La Nation, Gallimard, Paris, 1986.
3
Henri LEFEBVRE, Espace et politique (Le droit la ville II), Anthropos, Paris, 1973; IDEM,
La production de lespace, Anthropos, Paris, 1974.
4
Maurice HALBWACHS, Les cadres sociaux de la mmoire, Presses Universitaires de France,
Paris, 1925.
5
Maynard SOLOMON, Marxism and Art: Essays Classic and Contemporary, Knopf, New
York, 1973.
6
C. Wright MILLS, The Power Elite, Oxford University Press, New York, 1956.
7
Karl POLANYI, The Great Transformation, Rinehart, New York, 1944.
8
L.S. STAVRIANOS, The Influence of the West in the Balkans, in Charles and Barbara
JELAVICH (eds), Balkans in Transition, California University Press, Berkeley, 1963, pp. 184-226.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Post-Cold War Trajectories of Memory and Oblivion in Bulgaria and Kosovo

727

Forget Your Past:


Buzluda, Ownerless Communist National Memories
Buzluda is one of the historical peaks in Bulgarias Central Stara Planina. As part
of todays ipka-Buzluda national park museum, it is reached by a 12 kilometers
side-road from ipka Pass. Near this passage point, on Stoletov peak, stands ipka
Memorial, designed by the architect A. Donkov and the sculptor Al. Andreev and
inaugurated in 1934, to commemorate those dead for the liberation of Bulgaria during
the Russian-Turkish War (1877-1878). It is a monument of great importance for the
national appeal, enhancing Bulgarias bonds with Tsarist Russia/Soviet Union.
On the opposite peak, Buzluda, another monument was inaugurated on August
28, 1981 by the leader of the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP), T. ivkov. It was
erected to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Buzluda Congress of 1891. On that
year, social-democrats led by D. Blagoev (1856-1924) assembled secretly and founded
the Bulgarian Social-Democratic Workers Party1. Thus, the Buzluda monument was
erected by the ruling BCP in remembrance of that meeting, institutionalizing its sociopolitical struggle and transforming the place into a reminder of its own prehistory.
The monument also symbolized Bulgarias rebellious past, being built where the
final battle between the Ottomans and the Bulgarian band led by Hadi Dimitr took
place and where he fell (1868) becoming an inspiring national martyr and symbol2.
The very date of the inauguration generously provided the Bulgarian socialist
present with a third moment of the national history. In 1981, the 1300th anniversary
of the foundation of the Bulgarian State in 681 by Asparuh was also celebrated. A
grandiose plan enhancing both a remembrance of the medieval state and a laudation
of the present socialist one was accompanied by a plethora of activities ranging from
history to politics or military institutions (coinage, medals), the publication of collective
volumes or proceedings of congresses etc. Architectural projects were also carried out
massively: restoration of monuments (such as the finishing up of the fortress of Veliko
Trnovo, Tsarevets, founded in 1930), the foundation of commemorating multi-leveled
buildings, the erection of huge monuments in the capital as well as in the provinces
(such as the 1300-years monument: Past, Present and Future, the most controversial
monument in Sofia3 and Bulgaria 1300 years: Founders of Bulgarian State Monument
in umen). Economic events were likewise linked with similar past ones. The 100
years history of the national coin, the lev (lion, the traditional Bulgarian symbol), was

Blagoev linked the struggle for the Bulgarian working-class interests and the love for
homeland with proletarian internationalism. In his work What Is Socialism and Can It Take Root
Here? (Sofia, 1891), he expounded scientific socialisms basic propositions. His book From
the History of Socialism in Bulgaria (1906), initiating Bulgarian Marxist historiography, was
highly regarded for Working-class Partys ideological fortification and its struggle, against
opportunism, theoretical substantiation.
2
Hristo Botev (1848-1876), Bulgarias revered national poet and revolutionary, titled
after him his most famous and still influential poem on the uprising, first published in the
illegal newspaper Nezavisimost (Independence) in 1873.
3
It was completed in 8 months with low quality controls, resulting in collapse after 4
years. During the 1990s it was completely abandoned by the state. In 2002, due to a visit by
Pope John Paul II in Sofia, it was enclosed by a fence, a fact that made known the debate that
concerned its future.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

728

ELENA GKARTZONIKA

recalled1 along with its value equal to that of the French franc and the inscription
on it, Bulgarians Union Creates Power in Bulgarian, conveying nationalist civic/
ethno-populist aspirations for homogenization2. In 1981 the Bulgarian lev, pegged
to the US dollar since 1962, was represented as going through its second decade of
stability (albeit its convertibility to Western funds was not free, since black market
rates were five to ten times higher than the official ones).
All the celebrations were carried out under the auspices of the 1300 Years of
Bulgaria Foundation committee. This was a quasi-independent entity to support
the Arts established by ivkovs daughter, Ljudmila ivkova (1942-1981), Politburo
member of the BCP Central Committee and Chairwoman of the Committee for
Culture3. As a powerful intellectual leader of the Bulgarian Arts, she laid great
emphasis on the indigenous Bulgarian culture. It was an idea formulated during the
1970s and it marked the 1300th anniversary of the foundation of the Bulgarian state
in the Balkan Peninsula, celebrated in the year of her much-discussed death. Her
preference for moulded personalities and the idea of beauty in public life4 were
not to be fully developed, nor were they applied for long. Soon after her death, her
father removed her idealistic book on beautys laws from circulation, along with
most of her protgs from their influential state-posts. Actually, some of them were
accused of misappropriating public funds intended for the Arts, with their Foundation
literal and metaphoric involved in serious corruption.
The prevailing patrimonial dimension already described, relevant to the financial
as well as the aesthetic aspect, finds its ultimate expression in the Buzluda monument.
16 000 000 leva were collected as both voluntary and obligatory donations for the
construction of the House of the Bulgarian Communist Party, the largest monument
in Bulgaria. Eventually, 14 186 000 leva were used, while the rest were spent for the
construction of three kindergartens. It took military construction units almost seven
years to complete it, together with more than 6.000 workers and experts. Under the
guidance of the Bulgarian honorary member of World Architecture Community,
G. Stoilov, more than twenty leading Bulgarian artists worked on the interior decoration
for eighteen months. Verses from The International and The Workers March were
inscribed on its faade. The interior used to be partly covered in marble, while the
staircases were decorated with red stained glass. The foyer was fringed with blown
out windows, providing unobstructed views of the surrounding countryside. In the
fifteen meters high main hall of the memorial, a 500 square meters marquetry-fresco
portrayed Marx, Engels, Lenin, and, on the opposite wall ivkov, next to D. Blagoev

1
According to the Bulgarian National Bank the commemorative coinage reached the total
of 5 492 000 coins of copper/nickel (1, 2 and 5 leva) and silver (25, 50 and 1000 leva).
2
See Hans KOHN, The Idea of Nationalism, Macmillan, New York, 1967 [1944].
3
She created Sofias National Gallery of World Art, with a large collection of foreign
paintings and statues acquired on world markets while ensuring the rapid construction
of National Palace of Culture, the largest multifunctional centre in South-Eastern Europe
(constructions steel surpassed Eiffel Tower in 3000 tons) and 2005 worlds best, according
to the International Organization of Congress Centers. She also produced the Banner of PeaceInternational Childrens Assembly in Sofia under the auspices of Unesco. On her life see:
, : (Ljudmila: Dreams and Deeds),
(Producentska kata), vol. 2, no. 1/2, 2003.
4
L. ZHIVKOVA, According to the Laws of Beauty, Gruner, Amsterdam, 1981 [1979].

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Post-Cold War Trajectories of Memory and Oblivion in Bulgaria and Kosovo

729

and G. Dimitrov (1882-1949, Bulgarias first communist leader)1, between depictions


of women, men and children in a variety of communist themes. The dome was layered
with thirty tons of copper. Two stars of ruby glass (rubino oro), twelve meters high,
were built-in on top of a seventy meters high pylon, symbolizing a waving communist
flag. These Buzluda stars three times bigger than the Kremlin stars and the biggest
in the world were manufactured in the Soviet Union, an emblematic symbol
of Bulgarias bonds with it. Upon inauguration, ivkov embedded a bottle inside
the walls holding a message for future generations on the historical significance of
Buzluda. In his opening speech he emphatically noted: Let us never desert the trails
that lead here, of this legendary mountain, Buzluda2.
For a more thorough understanding of the ideological construction of the
Buzluda-memorial, the only available information is offered by an interview given
by its national architect, published in the year of celebration3. According to his
idealistic description reminding ivkovas discourse the monument was perceived
as a place for education in the spirit of socialist ideals. It was intended to reflect the
deep roots of the peoples culture and the peak of their present achievements, revealing
their beauty and the bright future that is reserved through them. Simultaneously, it
expressed great emotions associated with Buzluda peak. Apart from echoing the
heroic battles of Hadzi Dimitr, it was associated with more important political and
military events of Bulgarias recent past, namely its union (sjedinenieto) with Eastern
Rumelia (1885) and the early-1940s heroic partisan battles against the monarch-fascist
forces. Buzluda, forged by Stoilov with such symbolic messages, acquired a poetic
image sculpted out to become a sacred place, reminding a variety of national events.
For Stoilov, an important element in determining its volume and final form was
the proximity of previously constructed sanctuaries, with ipka-peaks monument
of liberation crowning the area. He also achieved a more favorable perception of
its silhouette from other distant places in sight, such as the field of Kazanlk or the
highway Sofia-Burgas etc. The Buzluda monument, built so as to offer an impressive
volume from a distance, was expected to enrich the approaching visitors experience,
not only in a three-dimensional perspective but also in its fourth dimension: time.
Stoilovs solution resided in the idea of unity in both concept and function. Its main
functional portion was transformed into plastic volume, with a dynamic composition
of a vertical and a spherical body being introduced in the environment of the parks
territory. Moreover, the purity of materials, of durable nature (concrete on the
outside and marble in the interior), was represented as completing the architectural
unity in composition and style, together with other elements of the synthesis (f.i. the
enamel marquetry in natural stone colors). The dome going far beyond the round
wall, closes the amphitheater without touching it. In Stoilovs own words, his
intention was to create an architectural metaphor, a new dome under which a sense
1

He negotiated with Josip Broz Tito the creation of a Balkan Federative Republic, separated
from the rest of the Slavic world, an obstacle to Stalins aspirations for total control over the
Eastern Bloc. The idea resulted in the 1947 Bled accord. Its policies were reversed after the TitoStalin split in June 1948, when Bulgaria, subordinated to the interests of the Soviet Union,
turned against Yugoslavia.
2
Georgi STOILOV, Dom-pametnik Buzluda. Intervju s narodnija arhitekt Georgi Stoilov
(House-monument Buzluda, Interview with the national architect Georgi Stoilov), Muzei i
Pametnici na Kulturata, vol. 21, no. 6, Komitet za kultura, Sofia, 1981, p. 8.
3
Ibidem, pp. 5-8.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

730

ELENA GKARTZONIKA

of infinity is achieved through a series of concentric circles expanding from a single


center to infinity. Light, a strong factor for emotional impact, played an important
role in creating the atmosphere and it was used carefully from the outside with
plenty of light entering the facilities in a damping range and, afterwards, reaching
the solemn hall to complete an emotional load. The same approach was perceived
on the inauguration night of the monument, with careful modeling of forms, using
white and golden light, while the bright light of the ruby star complemented the
whole setting.
From the aforementioned artistic hyper-maximalism one has to reach the absolute
minimalism, both equally charged with political symbolism, at the moment of the
populist shift in the post-Cold War trajectories of the communist legacy. On November
10, 1989 ivkov stepped down, after thirty five years in power. Immediately, the
Politburo ordered the removal of his portrait from the Buzluda memorial. The latter,
being property of the ex-Communist Party, was ceded to the state in 1991, only to
be abandoned and, consequently, open to looting. Today, it is mostly known as the
UFO, a surrealistic, derogatory term used even by Bulgarian tourist-guides. Besides
the damage caused by weather conditions and the states inertia for its protection,
acts of destruction are visible on its faade. The red graffiti above its entrance, Forget
Your Past, written in English and with a certain attention for the lettering, conveys
more than the monuments lamentable fate: once a symbol of national pride, today
it is neglected and ransacked. Unlike the Thracian tombs representing a golden
past, either the opposite ipka-Pass that commemorate glorious wars for the national
independence or the Rose Valley, an example of Bulgarias blossoming economy, it
is sinking in disdain along with the Cold war socialist regime. Its case is not unique.
Not surprisingly more than one hundred monuments constructed between 1945 and
1989 were equally condemned to oblivion, either by abandonment, destruction (like
G. Dimitrovs mausoleum in Sofia), transformation, or sale1.
The House of the Bulgarian Communist Party in Buzluda, as a memory/oblivion
paradigm in times of political upheavals, illustrates the social impact of the incessantly
selective usage of the past by the political powers. A piece of art allegedly presented as
a socialist avant-garde monument, carried rather the dominant totalitarian aesthetic,
seeking to create an image of a classless society, not a vanguard against it. Moreover, it
imposed for political reasons a historical abuse which after the state-capitalist shift of the
1990s was to be proven totally useless. Purposefully standing neglected and ravaged as
a socialist wreck, it is not heralding optimistic social messages. As Bl. Vlkov, professor
of the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Sofia has aptly stated:
In defining the fate of monuments, their significance for shaping the public
environment is also of particular importance. The landscape is complex and rich
in terms of memories and forms, as well as with relation to power. Pulling down
monuments creates fragmentation and indifference, as well as insecurity2.

1
See http://www.buzludja.com, http://nikolamihov.com/forget_your_past.html and
http://dprbcn.wordpress.com/2010/03/22/communist-political-monuments-in-bulgaria/
(accessed 30.10.2010).
2
Blagovest VLKOV, The Stones of Memory, a statement to The communist monuments, ABITARE, vol. 492, no. 3, 2009 (Source: web-project DPR-BARCELONA).

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Post-Cold War Trajectories of Memory and Oblivion in Bulgaria and Kosovo

731

Gazimestan:
Ex-Communist Medieval Memory under Surveillance
In Serbia the official national holiday on June 28th celebrating the day of St Vitus is
a date of high significance since the notorious Kosovo Battle is commemorated1. The
Battle was fought in 1389 between the army led by Serbian Prince Lazar Hrebeljanovi
and the invading for more than a decade Ottoman army, under the leadership of
Sultan Murad I. Both Lazar and Murad lost their lives during the battle, the bulk of
both armies were wiped out, and those remaining withdrew from Kosovo. The battle
ended in a draw.
Seventy years before the actual defeat of the medieval Serbian state by the Ottoman
powers, it was a time when no nations, in modern terms, existed, only moderately
Christian local lords linked to their land and the emperor, while land and power were
fragmented. Yet, the earliest traces of a Kosovo legend appeared in late 14th centurys
chronicles and correspondence with the West, in which a Christian triumph was
quite openly claimed. A myth was to be further enforced relying on speculations,
propagandizing heroism and treachery linked to hereditary claims, or acquiring local
colors. Additionally, under the tutelage and close supervision of the Church since it
was the only institution that survived the Ottoman conquest by the late 16th century,
and early 17th century, it had already taken a specific Serbian shape, whilst gradually
18th centurys texts and paintings managed to narrate it in a proto-nationalist form.
Eventually, it was the 19th centurys writers, mainly Vuk Karadi (1787-1864),
who transformed the Kosovo myth into a gripping national ideology. Even though
sources are indefinite2 and not even one speaks explicitly about a Turkish victory, a
defeat at the hands of the Turkish army was used to represent the subordinate Serbian
nation as one of hero-martyrs rebelling against the Turkish oppressors, inspiring ideals
of self-sacrifice not even Montenegro failed to incorporate Kosovo in its national
ideology3. Ever since, emerging Christian/national characteristics were defined in
sharp contrast to the ones of the Ottoman Turks. Among them, the emphasis on Lazars
canonization in 1390 and his cult were also used to secure the coherence of the Serb
flock. Similar ventures created a deep belief in religious symbols and practices, which
survived until the 19th centurys national states formation. However, the conditions
under which nations sought to be created were not unrelated to the inherent need
for geographical expansion, relying on the assistance of Western, fellow-Christian
powers. Ergo, the Balkans, sarcastically called Balkanie by the well-known French
geographer lise Reclus (1830-1905), were described as an area in which a remarkable
system of consecutive foreign sovereignties was exercised en cascades4.
1
Milorad EKMEI, The Emergence of St Vitus Day as the Principal National Holiday of
the Serbs, in Wayne VUCINICH, Thomas EMMERT (eds.), Kosovo Legacy of a Medieval Battle,
Minnesota University Press, Minneapolis, 1991, pp. 331-342.
2
On the 550th anniversary of the Battle: Mihailo DINI, Istorija jos nije uspela da
razluci istorisko Kosovo od legendarnog (History Still Can Not Distinguish Historical from
Legendary Kosovo), Politika, 28/06/1939, p. 3.
3
Petar II PETROVI-NJEGO (1813-1851), (Mountain Wreath), Armenian
Mechitarist monastery, Vienna, 1847. Njego transformed the legacy of Kosovos martyrdom
into a compelling force, determined to eliminate foreign dominion from all South Slav lands.
4
lise RECLUS, Nouvelle Gographie Universelle, 2 vols, Hachette, Paris, 1876-1894; IDEM,
LHomme et la Terre, vol. 1, F. Maspero, Paris, 1982 [1905-1908], pp. 93, 161.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

732

ELENA GKARTZONIKA

It was in such processes that, during the 20th century, the myth of Kosovo
was embedded in collective memory, remaining important in the Serbian-Albanian
conflict over Kosovo and Metohija. To enhance its significance, the Serbian Patriarchate represented Kosovo as the cradle of the Serbian state, a sacred land, and
Golgotha1 becoming the driving force of the secular outlook of religious identification. Formulated to create a generative process, it led to the connection of all
important events to the very date of the battle, cementing its memory with a timeless,
emblematic significance. Not accidentally, on the same day in 1914, the Serb student
Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand on a bridge in
Sarajevo, an event that dragged the region into the Great War. Seven years later, in
1921, Yugoslavia got its first modern constitution ratified by establishing the Kingdom
of Serbs, Croatians and Slovenians. Even the exclusion of the Yugoslav Party from
Cominform the final split between Yugoslavia and Soviet Union , was publicly
announced on the same date in 1948, obviously marking the independence of the
Federation2, remarkably embedded in the aforementioned context.
This myth-formatting process is mostly known in its Serbian/Christian variant,
but the area of Gazimestan proves that similar processes also occurred in the Muslim
side. Etymologically, Gazimestan derives from gazi, meaning hero in Turkish, and,
in Arabic warrior, and mesto, meaning place in Serbian. Thus, this place-name,
not an unusual mixture for the Balkan demographic and linguistic realities, also
conveys in Turkish/Arabic the local sealing of the second protagonist of the fight in a
land of Hero-Warriors. Two memorial loci are of high significance for the Muslims:
The Bayraktar Trbe, a mausoleum built at the center of the field, in honor of Sultan
Murads standard-bearer (bayraktar), killed during the 1389 battle. The tomb is an
important sanctuary for the followers of the Sadiye Dervi Order, to which Murads
standard-bearer is believed to have belonged3. The second is Mehed-i Hdvendigr,
a mausoleum erected in honor of the martyr sultan Murad, where his intestines are
buried4, on the spot where it is believed that his tent was located and he was allegedly
killed during the Kosovo Battle. For generations the duty to guard it, passed from
father to son within the Trbedari (guardians of the tomb) family, who resides right
next to it. In the wider area, tombstones of former Muslim governors of Skopje are
1
See Ivo BANAC, The National Question in Yugoslavia Origins, History, Politics, Cornell
University, Ithaca London, 1984; Olga ZIROJEVI, Kosovo in the Collective Memory, in
Neboja POPOV (ed.), The Road to War in Serbia Trauma and Catharsis, CEU, Budapest, New York,
2000 [1996], pp. 189-211; Radmila RADI, Lglise serbe et la question serbe in N. POPOV
(dir.), Radiographie dun nationalisme. Les racines serbes du conflit yougoslave, Editions de lAtelier,
Paris, 1998 [1996]; Ivan DJURIC, Glossaire de lespace yougoslave, Esprit des Pninsules, Paris,
1999, pp. 85-92; Ivan OLOVI, The Politics of Symbols in Serbia: Essays in Political Anthropology,
Hurst & Co., London, 2002 [2000]. On the Serbian Churchs discourse, see: Archimandrite
Athanase JEVTI, Dossier Kosovo, Lge dHomme, Paris, 1991; A. JEVTI, Stradanja Srba na
Kosovu i Metohiji od 1941 do 1990 (The Suffering of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija from 1941 to
1990), Jesinstvoto, Pritina, 1990. An exhibition was also organised jointly by the Serbian and
the Church of Greece titled , in Athens (2006).
2
A decision contrasting Bulgarias denouncement of the Bled accord in the same year.
3
A white round-shaped building with turquoise cupola, which is being looked after by a
small group of Sadiye Dervi followers in Pritina, after being heavily damaged during the late
1990s conflicts.
4
Murads actual remains were sent to his imperial mausoleum in Bursa, the first capital
of the Ottoman Empire.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Post-Cold War Trajectories of Memory and Oblivion in Bulgaria and Kosovo

733

also visible (Rifat Paa, Hafiz Paa). The mausoleum is said to have been reconstructed
by Hurid Paa, the famous repressor of Karaore Petrovis revolt, associated with
one of the most dramatic moments of the Serbian uprisings, the elevation of the Skull
Tower in Ni, Serbia1.
Thus, Gazimestan is the meeting place of two religious powers, officially in
conflict for centuries. In Titos Yugoslavia (1953) the rivalry was reinstated in a modern,
patriotic context, when a Memorial Tower of equally enormous dimensions like the
one at Buzluda was erected, paying tribute to Lazar and his army. The Memorial
Tower of the Kosovo Battle designed by the Serbian architect professor at the
University of Belgrade, member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts , Al.
Deroko (1894-1988) represents a medieval tower in a shape simulating the Crusaders
towers in Mistra2, Greece. The tower is about twenty five meters high, and stands on
an elevated platform, surrounded by four concrete chimneys and benches, together
with about twenty five acres of the surrounding land. More than 100 steps lead up to
the viewing platform on Towers top, from where Kosovo Plain is visible.
Near the Tower, a marble column bears chiseled a 15th century lyrical epitaph
chant to Lazar written by his son, Despot Stefan Lazarevi. Despite its Christian
verbalism, the text reminds of the epitaph of Simonides of Ceos for the dead Spartans
in the Battle of Thermopylae, in a synthesis that reveals an attempt to highlight the
significance of the battle of Kosovo: the glory of unity of small powers. In its sixty
seven lines, the column explains to visitors that in stone nature, I am placed among
the bones of the dead, upright in the middle of the field, representing the cross and
the flag to remind to every stranger or hailing from this soil, upon entering the
Serbian land of Kosovo of Lazar, a Serbian ruler, an unwavering pillar of piety,
who loved everything that Christ wanted and accepted the sacrificial wreath
of struggle and heavenly glory. He was saved by God, after bravely suffering in
Hagarene hands, becoming a martyr of Christ3.
On the Towers faade visitors also read / (Kosovos/
Princes Curse) with which, according to the legend, Lazar cursed before the Battle
those Serbs of birth, blood and heritage, who ignored his call for a united, defensive
war against the Ottomans. Noteworthy is that its motives are only updating the
medieval Christian worldview in a socialist environment, highlighting the impact of
the religious poetry that first appeared in the 1845 edition of V. Karadis collection
of Serbian folk songs; the notable lack of reference to the Serb blood and heritage in
the 1813 edition indicates a posterior rise of Serbian nationalism. In that context, the
curse reminds and/or is reminded by the Serbian ocila (firesteels), a term associated
with Serbian coat of arms, where four firesteels are displayed around a central cross.
Deliberately simulating Byzantine firesteel acronym from Palaeologan era (last
Byzantine dynasty before Ottoman conquest)4, it refers to a popular slogan among
A tower created by Ottomans after the egar hill Battle, in 1809. Built on the sides of a
cubical structure, the mounted skulls of the dead rebels (including Karaores) served as a
warning against rebellions.
2
A strategically important location, six kilometers northwest of Sparta in Peloponnesos.
After the middle of the 13th century it gradually became the political and spiritual center of the
(semi)autonomous Despotate of Morea.
3
Quotations are parts of the inscription, translated from Serbian by the author. The only
copy of the initial text from the column that Stefan is said to have placed in the same spot is
preserved in the Serbian Patriarchal Library (no. 167).
1

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

734

ELENA GKARTZONIKA

Serbs, which is frequently used in times of national crisis. The phrase Only Unity
Saves Serbs in Serbian, is displayed on a cross, forming an acronym of four C-shaped
firesteels. Its message can be connected to the similar, afore-commented Bulgarian
one . Sometimes it also reads Saint Sava Serbian Patron in Serbian, referring to the
founder of the Serbian Church (1217), son of Stefan Nemanja, who laid the basis of a
unified medieval state. Using ocila as symbol, the contemporary Serbian nationalist
movement, named 1389, perpetuates the political nuances of the overloaded
historical date.
These symbolic memories and emotional overloads were re-activated on the
occasion of the 600th anniversary of the battle, in 1989, when Slobodan Miloevi chose
Gazimestan Tower to deliver a fiery speech to the masses. Then, instead of the ocila,
the years 1389 and 1989 were inscribed within the cross. In some cases the message
was better illustrated. In between the years 1389 and 1989, a picture of the Tower,
and the phrase six centuries from the Kosovo Battle in Serbian, were added. Both
representations connected the memory of the Battle of Kosovo with Miloevis own
policy, namely the reduction of the autonomy-status of the Kosovo province and the
rights of the mostly Muslim Albanian population, established by the 1974 Yugoslavian
Constitution. In his speech, among others, Miloevi pointed out:
What has been certain throughout all centuries until our time is that
disharmony struck Kosovo 600 years ago. If we lost the battle, then this was not
only the result of social superiority and the armed advantage of the Ottoman
Empire, but also of the tragic disunity in the leadership of the Serbian state at
that time [...] six centuries later, now, we are being again engaged in battles [...]
They are not armed battles, although such things cannot be excluded yet []
Our chief-battle now concerns implementing the economic, political, cultural,
and general social prosperity, finding a quicker and more successful approach
to a civilization in which people will live in the 21st century. For this battle, we
certainly need heroism, of course of a somewhat different kind, but that courage,
without which nothing serious and great can be achieved, remains unchanged
and urgently necessary1.

As a response, Albanian nationalism led to tensions with Serbs, enhancing


separatist tendencies in the region that led to the Wars of the late-1990s, causing NATO
to intervene in order to stop what was identified by the Alliance, the EU and Western
media2 as an on-going campaign of ethnic cleansing. The idea of a lost ancestral,
Greater land and the consequent practices to claim it challenged the Socialist Federal
Republic model of governance and succeeded3 mainly due to the fear and skepticism
about a domino development that could have destabilized Europe, especially after the
demise of Eastern Germany. Actually, it was the uncertainty of global imbalances and
containment strategies that resulted in fragmentation and consequent formation
of disputed areas needing guidance. Hence, since 2007 it offers the excuse for the

Four Stylized Greek s for the imperial motto King of Kings Ruling over Kings, in Greek.
See the relative analysis on the aforementioned Bulgarian lev inscription.
3
Neboja POPOV, Srpski populizam; Od marginalne do dominantne pojave (Serbian
Populism; from Marginal to Dominant Phenomenon), Vreme, 24/05/1993. Miloevis speech
can be consulted online at: http://www.slobodan-milosevic.org/spch-kosovo1989.htm
(accessed 30.10.2011).
1
2

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Post-Cold War Trajectories of Memory and Oblivion in Bulgaria and Kosovo

735

Towers guardianship by KFOR troops alongside Kosovo Protection Corps (former


UK, Kosovo Liberation Army)1 granting to it political legitimacy. Visitors, mostly
Serbians, need to show to the guards their ID cards upon entering. The oppressive
ambience around the monument, disregarding notions of cultural protection2, was
completed with a surrounding fence accompanied by tanks. In 2010 a North Atlantic
Councils decision replaced the military necessity of KFOR with that of Kosovo Police
Service. In Kosovos supervised independent area, the Tower is still monitored as
a place of potential conflicts, exposed to endless political usages: later in 2010, the
newly restored Murads mausoleum was inaugurated by the Turkish prime-minister
R. T. Erdoan, obviously in the frames of the neo-Ottoman political doctrine. After
highlighting it as the first symbol of Islam, a seed of peace, brotherhood and unity
that took root in Gazimestans soil 711 years ago, later reaching Vienna, he didnt fail
to promise diplomatic and economic assistance3.

CONCLUSION
The aforementioned aesthetic dimensions4 of the Buzluda and Gazimestan monuments clarify the symbolisms of the prevailing discourses, as instruments used to
satisfy current and past aspirations of supremacy. After World War II they were
identified as a nationalist verbosity covering the socialist vacuum. In the Bulgarian
case, they resulted in a disdain for any positive aspects of socialism and, consequently
the memory of everything this regime constructed. Reversion rather than disdain is
visible in Kosovo. Here, Western paternalism, in a neo-colonial model of governance,
legalized through international communitys military guard the transformation of
the Serbian/Yugoslav collective memory into a Kosovar one and protected it from
ethnically determined enemies.
In the post-Cold War era, democratization was introduced with domestic
costs of rule adoption5. In Bulgaria it resulted in the permanence of influential and
opportunistic political groups, remnants of the former system, which preyed on the
actual institution of the state, perpetuating socio-economic disparities6. Similarly,
in ex-Yugoslav countries, following the failure of the post-1989 political project to
solve economic problems and to call for homogeneous nation-building, the people

1
Noam CHOMSKY, Edward HERMAN, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of
the Mass Media, Pantheon, New York, 1988.
2
Julie MERTUS, Kosovo: How Myths and Truths started a War, California University Press,
California, 1999; Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Albania (ed.), The Truth on Kosova,
Encyclopedia Publishing House, Tirana, 1993; Paulin KOLA, In Search of Greater Albania, Hurst
& Co, London, 2003, pp. 181-182.
3
In 1999 KLA had set explosive charges and badly damaged the Tower.
4
Gretel ADORNO, R. TIEDEMANN (eds), Adorno Aesthetic Theory, Routledge, London,
1984 [1966]; Herbert MARCUSE, The Aesthetic Dimension: Toward A Critique of Marxist Aesthetics,
Beacon, Boston, 1979.
5
Frank SCHIMMELFENNIG, Ulrich SEDELMEIER, Governance by Conditionality: EU
Rule Transfer to the Candidate Countries of Central and Eastern Europe, Journal of European
Public Policy, vol. 11, no. 4, August 2004, pp. 669-687.
6
Veselin GANEV, Preying on the State: The transformation of Bulgaria after 1989, Cornell
University Press, New York, 2007.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

736

ELENA GKARTZONIKA

of the Federation began confronting each other in relation to their respective ethnic/
religious prerogatives.
To sum up, the current state of the two monuments provides an insight into a
new demagogy. Imposing close spatial and temporal control on places pre-selected
to be re-constructed into bearers of collective will, it negotiates nowadays a socioideological consensus, along with the political one. The means used to this direction is
the ideation of a false collective being, which finds its locus in an equally re-constructed
memory. Since the only messages mediated are those by groups in power, social
processes are related to specific distributions of power and influence. Thus the
complex historical realities become oblivious, while the new memory oversimplifies
and disorientates from the former social cadres. Lately, these processes are described
as modern progressive tendencies regarding the past, influenced by similar European
ones. Taking into consideration our paradigms, they seem more as politically correct
attitudes regarding collective memory, socio-ideological modernities that only orbit
around the core of European socio-political transformations1.

See f.i. Marshall BERMAN, All that is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity, Simon
and Schuster, New York, 1982, pp 13-36, 87-130, 142-147, passim; John HARRISS, The Second
Great Transformation? Capitalism at the end of the Twentieth Century, in Tim ALLEN, Allan
THOMAS (eds), Poverty and Development into the 21st Century, Open University and Oxford
University Press, Oxford, New York, 2000, pp. 325-342; Raffaele SIMONE, Le monstre doux:
Loccident vire-t-il droite?, Gallimard, Paris, 2010.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

737

RECENSIONES

RECENSIONES

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

738

RECENSIONES

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

739

RECENSIONES

JACQUES RANCIRE
The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible
Continuum, London, New York, 2010, 116 pp.
As Steve Corcoran puts it in his
introduction to another work of Jacques
Rancire1, this authors conceptual framework assumes that genuine artistic or
political manifestations always involve
forms of innovation that tear bodies from
their assigned places and free speech
and expression from all reduction to
functionality. An attentive reader will be
delighted to discover how the analysis
of interferences between politics and the
aesthetic sphere is carried even further,
while their common denominator becomes
the very object of Rancires scientific and
philosophical inquiry.
Initially, The Politics of Aesthetics: The
Distribution of the Sensible had the structure
of an interview the questions conceived by
two young philosophers (Muriel Combes
and Bernard Aspe) were answered by
Jacques Rancire in five separate chapters
within The Distribution of the Sensible
section.
In the first chapter (The Distribution
of the Sensible: Politics and Aesthetics), the
author describes the theoretical junctions
that relate his concept of distribution of the
sensible to the aesthetic and the political
practice, as well as the mechanisms of
this particular distribution. Here is where
the scholar explains that, with regard to
what we call art, it is in fact possible to
distinguish, within the Western tradition,
three major regimes of identification: an
ethical regime of images (concerned with
the origin, the truth content, the end or
the purpose of a work of art), a poetic or
representative regime of arts identifying
the artistic substance in the dichotomy
poiesis/mimesis, and an aesthetic regime
of arts, the only one that strictly identifies
art in the singular and frees it from any
1

Jacques RANCIRE, Dissensus. On


Politics and Aesthetics, Continuum, New York,
London, 2010, p. 1.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

specific rule, from any hierarchy. Yet, it does


so by destroying the mimetic barrier that
distinguished ways of doing and making
affiliated with art from other ways of doing
and making (pp. 20-23).
The following chapter covers the
subject of Artistic Regimes and the Shortcomings of the Notion of Modernity by
outlining the double meaning of some
terms related to the history of arts (such
as modernity, avant-garde or post-modernity)
which carry at the same time a political
connotation. Rancire expresses once
again his discontent regarding the lack of
scientific accuracy that is to be found in the
common understanding of these words and
the vagueness of such chronologies. For
example, as he anticipated in the previous
chapter: The concept of modernity is today
the source of all jumbled miscellany that
arbitrarily sweeps together such figures as
Hlderlin, Czanne, Mallarm, Malevich,
or Duchamp into a vast whirlwind where
Cartesian science gets mixed up with
revolutionary parricide (p. 11).
Mechanical Arts and the Promotion
of the Anonymous is the title of the third
chapter which explains how the emergence
of photography and cinematography
(recognized as something more than only
instruments of recording and transmission,
and perceived as mechanical arts) managed
to transform the anonymous and the masses
into subject matters of art, offered them
visibility, and unveiled their specific
beauty. This particular determinism that
relates arts to technological and historical
conditions leads to a twofold conclusion,
formulated by Rancire as it follows: On
the one hand, the technological revolution
comes after the aesthetic revolution. On
the other hand, however, the aesthetic
revolution is first of all the honour acquired
by the commonplace, which is pictorial
and literary before being photographic or
cinematic (p. 33).

740
The fourth chapter raises a challenging
question: Is History a Form of Fiction?.
As an answer, the author will provide the
reader with several necessary distinctions,
vital in understanding what sets apart,
for example, history from narrative arts,
historicity from literarity, fictional rationality
from social reality or even the logic of the
fiction from the logic of the facts. The finishing
touches added to this theoretical tour de
force are brought by a small introduction to
the definitional capabilities and the connotative properties of the word utopia, so often
differently translated in the languages of
arts and politics.
Finally, the last chapter of this section,
entitled On Art and Work, discusses the
artistic behavior (and the amount of work
it implies) as an attempt to reconfigure the
landscape of the sensible, to recompose
the relationship between doing, making,
being, seeing and saying (p. 45).
The later development of the
volume enriched it with a second section,
comprising another interview of Jacques
Rancire this time, taken by Gabriel
Rockhill, the editor and the translator of
the English edition of the volume. Under
the title The Janus-Face of Politicized Art
the reader encounters a sum of inspiring
argumentations and explicitations with
regard to the historical, hermeneutic and
methodological perspectives that may be
adopted in discussing matters related to
politicized art of any kind.
The architecture of the volume is
completed by a challenging Afterword
by Slavoj iek which, along with the
Translators Preface and the Translators
Introduction authored by Gabriel Rockhill,
takes a brief insight into Rancires fields of
academic interest and a chronology of his
other contributions to politics, philosophy,
historiography, arts and, of course, his
privileged objects of study: the problem
of bridging the gap between the Politics
of Perception and the Distribution of the
Sensible. An extensive bibliography and
a glossary of technical terms are attached
to the end of the volume, providing other
helpful instruments for a more accurate

RECENSIONES

understanding of Rancirian terminology


and flow of ideas.
To understand such charming, yet
labyrinth-like reasoning, one should
depart from a recurrent statement in
this book: Politics and art, like forms of
knowledge, construct fictions, that is to
say material rearrangements of signs and
images, relationships between what is seen
and what is said, between what is done and
what can be done (p. 39). Without getting
any deeper into semiotic analysis, one can
safely infer that both political statements
and aesthetical forms of expression (what is
generally put under an umbrella term, art)
produce effects in reality, since they define
not only models of speech or action, but also
regimes of sensible intensity. This concept
of sensible intensity brings into discussion
more Rancirian terminology, namely the
glamorous theory of a distribution of the
sensible. This particular term, coined by
the author himself, is understood as the
system of divisions and boundaries that
define, among other things, what is visible
and audible within a particular aestheticalpolitical regime.
In other words, politics and aesthetics
both posses, among their multiple functions, the ability to reconfigure the map
of the sensible by interfering with the
functionality of gestures and rhythms
adapted to the natural cycles of production,
reproduction and submission. By applying
this reasoning to the field of literature in
particular, Rancire draws an inspiring
conclusion: Man is a political animal
because he is a literary animal who lets
himself be diverted from his natural
purpose by the power of words (p. 39).
However, it must be kept in mind
the fact that, despite all analytical efforts
to determine it, there is still no known
criterion for establishing an appropriate
correlation between the politics of aesthetics
and the aesthetics of politics. As the author
explains, this has nothing to do with
the claim made by some people that art
and politics should not be mixed they
intermix in any case: politics has its
aesthetics and aesthetics has its politics,
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

741

RECENSIONES

but there is no formula for an appropriate


correlation. The interdisciplinary research
agenda mastered by Jacques Rancire has
generated, nevertheless, another significant
observation: It is up to the various forms
of politics to appropriate, for their own

proper use, the mode of presentation or


the means of establishing explanatory
sequences produced by artistic practices
rather than the other way around (p. 65).
ALEXANDRA IRIMIA

JACQUES RANCIRE
Dissensus: on Politics and Aesthetics
Edited and translated by STEVEN CORCORAN
Continuum International Publishing Group, Great Britain, 2010, 230 pp.
Not very popular among Romanian
readers1, Jacques Rancire appears as an
original contemporary philosopher who has
demonstrated his almost unique political
thinking for more than half a century
through writings starting form structural
Marxist ideas and leading to the rethinking
of the relationship between arts and
politics. Since the 60s he continued to write
about different subjects as the relationship
between work and philosophy, history
related to art, not forgetting the elements of
the political discourse as ideology, theories
about democracy and equality, innovating
in all these subfields. His main focus in the
most recent years has been on aesthetics, a
subject which he developed in more than
five volumes like The Politics of Aesthetics:
The Distribution of the Sensible, The Future
of the Image, The Aesthetic Unconscious, The
Emancipated Spectator, as well as in several
articles. In a more recent volume he connects
aesthetics to politics and he succeeds in
creating new concepts and providing new
interpretations of old subjects.
Therefore, in writing Dissensus: on
Politics and Aesthetics, Rancire begins his
analysis from two main hypotheses: the
first states that between art and politics
there is no connection meaning that they are
two separate domains. On the other hand,
his second statement is the one he accepts
and which affirms that these two realities

1
Rancire has not been translated into
Romanian.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

belong to each other by heritage involving


here the concept of dissensus. In fact, the
book is a collection of articles structured
in three parts, each of them representing
a chapter. Although, the emphasis is put
on the two main parts: The Aesthetics of
Politics and The Politics of Aesthetics.
In the first part, Rancire talks about
his vision on politics and everything it
involves, including concepts and ideas such
as democracy, human rights, raising and
answering questions. In the second part of
the book, the author discusses the aesthetic
revolution and its emergence, regimes of
art, equality, and different principles like
that of indifference. In fact, we assist to the
conceptualization of art as it is proper to
the aesthetic regime.
In order to understand his unique way
of thinking, especially due to the fact that he
uses many abstract terms, Rancire explains
in detail first, the main concepts connected
to politics and second, everything we
should know about aesthetics. Although
his unique language renders a first reading
difficult, the argument the authors makes is
dense and the reader should take his time in
trying to understand each concept in order
to comprehend his structure of thinking.
Of course, dissensus and consensus remain
two of the most central ideas of the book
and therefore, the author analyzes them
extensively, always coming back to them.
What does the author mean by politics? He dedicates an entire chapter to the
definition of the meaning of what politics
is and what politics is not by taking into

742
account the Ten Theses on Politics. In
discussing this specific subject he uses
perspectives and ideas from Ancient
philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato
but also from more modern ones and here
I refer to Hannah Arendt and the attention
Rancire gives to her ideas. Therefore, for
him politics is not the exercise of power
(p. 27) but it is included in the partaking
relationship which refers to the citizen who
is part of both the act of ruling but also of
the act of being ruled. Inspired by Aristotle
classification concerning the possible class
of rule within a polis, connecting freedom
to the demos, Rancire sees politics as a
paradoxical form of action (p. 29) because
even though the people is supposed to be
free it has to submit. His explanations use
concepts like arkh which in translation
means the power to rule and for him the demos
(people) is seen as a rupture in the logic
of this specific power. Also, an important
aspect is that politics exists as a rupture in
the normal order of things: Politics exists
insofar the people is not identified with
a race or population but it appears in the
form of a supplement to every count of the
parts of society (p. 35).
Jacques Rancire often retakes ideas
from his previous writings such as le
partage du sensible which he refers to
not only in terms of the distribution of the
sensible (art), but also as participation if we
take into account the meaning of partage
in French. He introduces two ways of
counting communities: the first one he calls
it police and it refers only to real parts of the
community, while the second one is called
politics which besides the real parts, it also
includes part of the community of those
without a part (p. 36). Although, the
two concepts are opposed in the sense that
while police represents the partition of the
sensible meaning that there is no need for
supplement, the latter is the way politics
disturbs this order to create its own.
Nonetheless, when trying to define
politics, Rancire has to talk about politics
in direct connection with dissensus, in this
way explaining it. In order to understand
this notion we need to take into account

RECENSIONES

the opposite part, meaning consensus because


dissensus appears through the rapture of
the normal consensus. Moreover, consensus
leads to the partage du sensible, therefore
creating a partition in the sensible, and
the essence of politics is represented by
dissensus (p. 38). Rancire calls it the
manifestation of a gap in the sensible
itself (p. 38). In this situation, consensus
becomes the end of politics because
politics is being reduced to police. Plus,
what makes politics special in the authors
view is the fact that the one who rules has
no qualification to do so.
We should not forget the fact that the
author expresses his views on democracy
all throughout the book. His thinking is
influenced by Plato, Jean Claude Milner,
Benny Levy, Giorgio Agamben, Hannah
Arendt, and Karl Marx. In many cases,
he supports their ideas, but there are also
notions and concepts he does not agree to
and he chooses to deconstruct them.
For example, in the second chapter
of the first part, Rancire chooses to
explain himself starting with the question
addressed by another French philosopher,
his contemporary, Jacques Derrida in his
The Politics of Friendship (2005), Does
Democracy Mean Something?. They start
with the premise that there is a difference
between the name of the notion and the
notion itself. Therefore, Rancire talks
about the democratic paradox explaining that
on the one hand, democracy self-governs
and cannot be imposed by force but
democracy implies also the disorder of the
democratic life (p. 46). So, the real danger
is given by the social and political part of
democracy and in order for democracy
as a form of government to exist it has to
repress the former. Starting from Milners
view on democracy, Rancire discusses the
subject of good democracy and he assumes
concepts as the forms of government which
are supposed to be descended from heaven:
pastoral government and democracy.
Furthermore, the author tries to
deconstruct the traditional definition of
democracy which would be the power of the
demos claiming that democracy is not a set
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

RECENSIONES

of institutions, nor the power of a specific


group (p. 52). More than that, the demos
is not the population but the surplus
community made up of those who have
no qualification to rule, which means at
one everybody and anyone at all (p. 53).
Continuing his discussion on democracy,
the author comments on the principles
he borrowed from Derrida and which he
agrees with. For example, the latter explains
the democracy to come concept which implies
an infinite openness because it has no
specific time-frame. Even though, Derrida
emphasizes the contrast between this type
of democracy and the liberal one saying
that democracy as a practice disappears in
this kind of situation (p. 59).
Rancire discusses also other subjects
like human rights, the conceptualization
of the contemporary world, the new world
order and major events, always introducing
new concepts. He departs from Hannah
Arendts conception about human rights
according to which, the rights of the citizen
are the rights of a man, but the rights of a
man are the rights of the non-politicized
person. Moreover, the rights of a man are
the rights of a citizen so they are the rights
of those who already have them (p. 67).
Arendt and Rancire found themselves
confronted with a paradox. Despite this,
they found the solution, a middle way
through these two interpretations: The
Rights of the Man are the rights of those
who have not the rights that they have and
have the rights that they have not (p. 67).
Another subject the author analyses is the
impact of the events of September 11 on
the international order. For Rancire those
events did not create any rupture in the
symbolic order but an eclipse of politics.
Although his critics disagree with him, a
further proof is given by all the measures
taken at the international level in order to
fight terrorism.
The second part of the book is dedicated to aesthetics following the evolution
of the concept since its emergence and
throughout all its transformations. Rancire
explains why aesthetics is not a discipline
but a way of thinking the art or a regime of
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

743
art. He is influenced by Schillers writings
in providing a definition for aesthetics.
For him, aesthetics refer to the existence
of a specific sensory experience that holds
the promise of both a new world of Art
and a new life for individuals and the
community (p. 115).
The aesthetic revolution started sometime during the French Revolution and it
became a human revolution, in this way
three stances appeared: the possibility to
make life from art, life can become art, and
both art and life can exchange features.
Furthermore, the author identified three
regimes of art: the ethical regime (there is
no autonomy for the products of art), the
representative regime (centered on imitation) and the aesthetic regime (art becomes
art). Concerning the last type of regime,
Rancire introduces the concept of sensorium
writing that the artwork participates in the
sensorium of autonomy inasmuch as it is
not a work of art (p. 117). What is central
to this type of regime is that the art is an
autonomous form of life (p. 119).
It cannot go unnoticed that Rancire
is a thinker of paradoxes meaning that in
this book he enjoyed discovering possible
oppositions and analysing conflicts between
concepts or ideas. For example, the paradox
of art in the last regime identified by the
author is that art is art to the extent that
it is not art present in the first chapter of
the second part, The Aesthetic Revolution
and Its Outcomes. Taking into account the
various definitions of politics the author
gave in the first chapter, in The Politics
of Literature, another chapter from the
second part he uses them to define the role
of literature in doing politics. Therefore,
literature as what it stands for is involved in
the partition of the visible and the sayable.
(p. 152).
In the third part of his book, Rancire
replies to his critics by providing a
coherent explanation for his choices in
using terms like politics/police, aesthetics/
representative regimes. Of course, the final
discussion centres on the central subject of
the book, the meaning of dissensus which
raised controversies as being thought of,

744
or being the result of paradoxical actions.
Nonetheless, the discussion remains open
to new interpretations.
One important thing to mention about
the entire book is that ideas and notions
are reiterated all throughout the book. This
happens because the book itself is made
up from a collection of articles but it can
prove tiring that the author repeats himself
several times. For example, he retakes the
idea of democracy in two chapters Ten
Thesis on Politics and Does Democracy
mean something? as well as in the second
part of the book.
Jacques Rancire brought his contribution to the domains of art and politics

RECENSIONES

through his book Dissensus: on Politics and


Aesthetics which offers an introduction to
his thinking which is rather unique. This
is a book recommended to philosophy
students/scholars, as well as to those who
study arts or political science given the fact
that the author presents very interesting
and sometimes unique ideas for these
fields. Although, for outside readers it
might seem difficult to understand the
text especially because of the influences
Rancire received from other important
thinkers whose ideas are discussed at
length by the volume.
ANDRA GRIGORE

MICHAEL J. SHAPIRO
Cinematic Geopolitics
Routledge, New York, 2009, 177 pp.
How do films function as counterspaces to the violent cartography produced by governmental policy? This is
one of the questions Mike Shapiro answers
through his book Cinematic Geopolitics by
analyzing films such as Salvador, Dirty Pretty
Things, Friend of the Deceased or the Battle of
Algiers. Shapiro has long been preoccupied
with alternative ways of reading and
writing about politics realizing the violence
that knowledge production contributes to.
By contrast to mainstream positivist schools
of thought interested in numbers and
populations, justifying forms of domination
that arrest the representation of subjects to
serve particular power interests, Shapiro
is interested in the knowledge one can get
from paintings, pictures, images and films,
that is, the minor literature which has
been generally silenced. This approach
does not reflect a simple appreciation of
art: there is so much life here to be explored
aesthetically.
The politics of aesthetics that Shapiro
is illustrating sensitizes us to issues of
emotions, pains, ambiguities of everyday
life; these do not merely (re)present the
world but prompt us to our own imagining

in reading the world. Ideas are forms of


imagination and of sensing the world
as opposed to mere cognitive processes.
Refusing disciplinary boundaries, Shapiro
invites us to question our own knowledge
in a journey of critical analysis that will
unsettle our world. The methods and (of)
the notions are not merely deconstructed
in Shapiros writings but also re-framed so
that one feels their violence allowing us to
travel from one mode of seeing to another,
to produce a rupture of habitual modes
of being and to enjoy any crisis of selfidentification.
Lamenting our imprisonment in a
psychological or ideological consciousness
does not help us recover from the damage
this has done to our relational being nor
support us reinvent other possibilities or
alternative ways to (politically) partition
our world. All six chapters of Cinematic
Geopolitics will make cinematic accounts in
this respect: stories about war slavery and
the servants of nowadays globalization,
about forced migration, about native lands
and about (free) movement of capital and
body organs. As micro-practices, these
films destabilize the macro-practices of
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

RECENSIONES

security-minded and war-strategy focused


texts of international relations.
Movies are not mere fictions but the
involuntary memory of our collective,
of epistemic significance in producing
resistance to the new violent cartography
of post-9/11. Shapiro explains this in
the first Chapter of his book, The New
Violent Cartography: cartographies are
imaginaries, i.e. socially embedded frames
of interpretations based on antagonisms
about identity and difference that mainstream policy-makers use to justify waras-policy: From the point of view of U.S.
executive branchs geography of enmity,
if you are not an intimate of the global
exchange of resources for example
being an Iran rather than a Saudi Arabia
it increases your chances of becoming a
rogue state or part of the axis of evil and
thus a potential target (p. 28).
If we wish to understand global politics
outside a mere moralizing knowledge that
serves immediate power interests we need
to be aware of the moral economy of
such events, i.e. the inter-discursive field
establishing what is acceptable and
what is unacceptable; inspired by Michel
Foucault, Shapiro reminds us that the will
to truth is not an issue of distinguishing
between true and false information
but of realizing the system of exclusions
partitioning the world. For instance,
reading the movie Salvador in Chapter 2
called Preemption Up Close: Film and
Pax Americana, Shapiro offers evidence
on the truth weapons at the government
disposal, that is, media as well as on the
minor stories told by an adventurous
journalist outside the mainstream media
channels: It should be recalled that the
victory of the right-wing reactionary forces
over the insurgency in El Salvador was
not won only through the battles in the
countryside. What was preempted, with
a combination of U.S. assistance and the
United States failure to press consistently
for human rights, was the political vitality of
the alliance between the urban Salvadoran
intellectual and the working class. And
vitality is more than a metaphor (p. 62).
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

745
Boyles life is in a mess when he
decides to go to El Salvador during the Cold
War to search for communist scapegoats.
As a journalist without credentials, Boyles
character is constructed by Oliver Stone
precisely to create a counter-historical
text to the attempt by policy makers to
conjure away their complicity with one of
the worst episodes of official murder and
other violations of human rights (p. 50).
Therefore, the movie invites us to believe
what we see and not what others tell
us or what our (ideological) beliefs tell
us to believe. Shapiro makes clear the
similarities between these events and the
more recent US war in Iraq, when the
power production of war depended on the
production of knowledge justifying it.
A frequently asked question in
Shapiros books is the following Kantian
one: what are the conditions of possibility
for something to be seen in a certain way
rather than another? Chapter 3 of the
book, entitled Fogs of War addresses this
question by arguing that the conditions
of possibility for war are to be looked for
in the productive relationship between
consciousness and war itself, as an object
of perception (a phenomenological view).
Simply put, wars as other human actions are
results of expectations and choices. Surely,
both Kantian and especially Lacanian
studies show us that human relation to
the real is also a misrecognition given
the fogs that blur our cultural screen
(p. 64), but institutionalized and collectively engendered mentalities (p. 65) loom
larger in this process rather than some
external uncertain conditions of the battlefield. As in the case of the Iraq war, the
influential treatise of the National Defense
University Press unveils precisely the
intention of the government, to shock
and awe which was not an unfortunate
accident of state terrorism over civilians.
Watching Errol Morriss McNamara
cinematic biography, Shapiro urges us to
remember that the absurdity and atrocities
of such conflicts (of state against networks
and of wars in general) are not unfortunate
inevitable events but shocking effects of

746
the real. The linear documentary narrative
of McNamara stating that killing should
be proportional is conflicting the
images, scenes and sounds used by Morris,
producing alternative loci of meaning
making (p. 77) which blur rather than lift,
the fog of war. In other words, what is
presented as mere information is often a
strong political advocacy in favor of certain
positions: McNamaras reasons of state, his
macro-level, geo-political focus, effectively
evacuates vulnerable civilians from his
scenario, while, in juxtaposition, Morriss
editing brings them back, foregrounding
the human lives rather than the states that
were at risk (p. 79).
Shapiros illustrations from movies
(and also novels) point out to Rancieres
thinking about the politics of aesthetics.
When talking about aesthetics, he invites
us to think about the way in which the
sensible world can be partitioned and
re-partitioned: what are the feelings one
should or should not feel? What is
the discourse of power that produces the
normalcy of certain feelings or beliefs?
For example, Chapter 4 entitled The
Sublime Today: Re-partitioning the Global
Sensible, is reading the movie Dirty Pretty
Things, illustrating how the vulnerable
categories of people produced by the new
global economy (immigrants and refugees
of various kinds, ethnicities and professions)
often end up selling their body organs in
order to make a living. Surely they want to
sell what the political economy asks them
to sell as their own immediate resource/
commodity (their body and labor force);
but surely they may see no other choice
while these organs are harvested under
severe duress (p. 90).
Inspired also by Kants Third Critique,
Shapiro argues that in order to understand
facts (about the global economy) one
has to already create meaning; moreover,
to comprehend meanings of things is
nevertheless to understand the structures
of imagination that offered those meanings,
the way these structures are historically
developed as practices. However, when
it comes to the outcomes of commerce,

RECENSIONES

Shapiro points out to a post-Kantian


politics of aesthetics of the film: commerce
does not necessarily alleviate inter-state
hostilities but also contributes to a mode
of exploitation producing new systems
of exclusions and inclusions: sweatshop working women, illegal economic
migrants and refugees are the invisible
(excluded) ones that clean the clothes of the
included, offering them the comfort and
joys of London life. It is no surprise that
the space where most action takes place is
the Baltic Hotel: the movie, thus, talks
about ethnic and class partitioning. Okwe,
a Nigerian illegal immigrant is a divided
character, whose staging in the final scene
illustrates what Ranciere calls events of
subjectification, producing the necessary
dissensus that disturbs the global mode
of exploitation and mirrors the human
equality that governments hide through
structures of hierarchy.
Chapter 5 of Cinematic Geopolitics
addresses postcommunist life through what
Shapiro calls the Aesthetics of Disintegration prompting us to intimacies and
allegiances that seldom appear in statistical
reports of procedural democratic practices.
Analyzing Milan Kunderas Ignorance novel
and Vyacheslav Kristofovichs film Friend of
the Deceased, Shapiro refers to the monetary,
moral and emotional economies blurring
social bonds, attachments and coherences in
the former Eastern Bloc.
On the one hand, Shapiro reads
Irenas identity in Kunderas novel as an
ambiguous one struggling to harmonize
multiple pressures and expectations: of
family, of nationals, of friends, of the new
(French) home. All her life crises are
micro-political crises articulating in fact
that which is a macro-political moment of
crisis that is, postcommunism. In addition,
Irenas romance with Josef is creating what
Shapiro calls a map of emotional depth
based not on shared nostalgia for homeland
but on liberation from any such (imposed)
attachments and codes.
On the other hand, Kristofovichs film
shows another side of the aesthetics of
disintegration. The intention in Shapiros
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

747

RECENSIONES

reading is, again, to point out micro-political


moments of rupture (such as in Anatolis
marriage and his depression) in the milieu
of macro-political fractures (the chaos of the
postcommunist city of Kiev dominated by
the black market and the mafia). Both are
explained through the states loss of control
over the economy and the breakdown of the
social contract leaving room for anarchic
decentralized capitalism and (mostly)
business relationships.
Asking himself about the Perpetual
War, Shapiro makes a reading of two films
in the final chapter of the book: first, Michael
Ciminos The Deer Hunter and second,
Terrence Malicks The Thin Red Line. Shapiro
is influenced by Deleuzes philosophy on
cinema, as a venue that creates not only
images and stories but, more importantly,
worlds that challenge the borders of our
perceptions on, in this case, the Vietnam
War and respectively, World War II. One of
the questions asked by Shapiro is Why do
people adopt and enact enmities that have
little to do with, or are even disjunctive with,
their personal experience? (p. 135); for him,
The Deer Hunter is one of those critical movies
offering an answer to this type of questions

to which the characters themselves do not


find any. Again, it is the micro-cosmos of
ambiguous (in)articulations of characters
that provide the political relevance of the
film. In completing Ciminos saying,
Malicks film is seeing images that think
about life-affirming worlds of anti-war
relevance.
The films Shapiro analyzes are
aesthetic and, thus, political in a critical
sense (that is non-ideological) because they
present ambiguous situations and realities,
which are not clarified or righted in some
normative fashion. The subjects of the films
Shapiro is screening are aesthetic subjects
given the fact that there is no intelligible
(ideological) discourse to their feelings;
their attitudes are to be seen aesthetically
because they deny certainty. Without a
sense of certainty, subjects can be political
in a critical sense of subject-hood and not
mere ideological, in a programmatic sense,
thus, remaining open rather than producing
closure: Subjects are best understood not
as static entities [] but as beings with
multiple possibilities for becoming (p. 8).
IRINA VELICU

MICHAEL J. SHAPIRO
The Time of the City: Politics, Philosophy, and Genre
Routledge, New York, 2010, 232 pp.
Michael J. Shapiros latest offering,
The Time of the City: Politics, Philosophy,
Genre, serves as a unique addition to an
already unparalleled corpus, which as a
whole functions in Deleuzian terms as
a body without organs as it is permeated
by unformed, unstable matters, by flows
in all directions, by free intensities or
nomadic singularities, by mad or transitory
particles1. Indeed, Shapiros oeuvre has the

1
Gilles DELEUZE, Felix GUATTARI, A
Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia,
University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis,
1987, p. 40.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

recalcitrant richness and disjunctive depth


of a modern metropolis one in which
the subject confronts the political across
genres as one would encounter diversity
among neighborhoods. For Shapiro, whose
work draws heavily from Deleuze and
Foucault, the normative discourses endemic
to much of mainstream political science
are complicit, in theory and practice, with
the state dispositive the macropolitical
being of politics. In contrast, Shapiro
engages the micropolitical best construed
as the movements of everyday life as a
means to articulate the dynamic becoming
apparent within the spatial positioning
of the body, especially as found within

748
aesthetic renderings as they reveal/conceal
the textures and flows of global politics.
Hence, one finds a text on international
relations centered primarily but not
entirely on literary and filmic imaginings
of urban space. This interdisciplinary
problematization, which ruptures the
primary allegiance given to the citizen and/
or the national subject, ultimately portends
a detachment of the (social) science from
the political. While Shapiro has been lauded
for his radical reconsiderations of political
subjectivity and methodological ingenuity,
he is not without detractors. As a means
to commence a more formal engagement
with his work, I turn first to some remarks
made by a previous reviewer so as to
further situate Shapiros approach in The
Time of the City, especially as seen from the
perspective of more traditionally-minded
political theorists.
As part of a broader mission to
perform a degree of scholarly outreach,
the American Political Science Association
publishes Perspectives on Politics, which
contains numerous monograph reviews.
In the June 2011 issue, The Time of the City
received a critical, yet cursory, appraisal
from another political theoretician, who,
perhaps not surprisingly, found Shapiros
method less than desirable. In light of
Shapiros deployment of film as a critical
lens for situating the micropolitics of
everyday life, the reviewer confoundedly
confessed, I was unable to find any real
insight about politics or the political in
these analyses. The real problem with
this book lies in the kind of theoretical
assumptions it makes about the nature of
politics and knowledge itself2. Although
this might come across as the proverbial
stake in the heart to most readers, this
sentiment attests to the challenge inherent
to Shapiros body of work, which seeks
nothing less than a reconsideration of the
foundations with which the discipline
2
Michael J. THOMPSON, review of
The Time of the City: Politics, Philosophy,
and Genre, in Perspectives on Politics, vol. 9,
no. 2, June 2011, pp. 434-435/p. 435.

RECENSIONES

of political science attempts to think


the political (p. 4). Consequently, the
reviewers assertion that there are no real
insights about politics or the political
in The Time of the City says far less about
the lenses and frames with which Shapiro
intervenes with the political than it does
about the discursive parameters incumbent
to the discipline of political science, even
and perhaps especially within political
theory3. Indeed, the positivist threads of
the reviewers reading of the text, which
poses a counter-argument championing
an understanding of the ways that power
and space are able to affect consciousness,
disrupt forms of social solidarity and
organization, and pervert institutions away
from democratic ends, is precisely what
Shapiro calls into question here and in
previous works for its normative ideations
of subjectivity and penchant for buttressing
statist discourses4.
If, however, one re-thinks political
subjectivity with Shapiro, The Time of the
City offers a possibility and potentiality for
politics in spaces and times that mainstream
political science simply cannot entertain.
Even the divisions within the field, such as
political theory and international relations
that organize ideas and discourses just as
organs control the processes and functions
of the body, cannot adequately confront
the profound discontinuities of both
historical and contemporary political
subjectivity as such, the text under
consideration is best construed as a series
of Interventions, which aptly serves as
the title for Routledges series of critical
interdisciplinary texts. From the outset,
Shapiro makes it clear that The Time of the
City is a methodological odyssey charting
the micropolitics of urban experience,
which the author drew from the delirium
of an encounter with Charles Dickens
(p. xv). This language reflects the sensitivity
of Shapiros undertaking, and as a subject,
his presence in the text mediates the very

3
4

Ibidem, p. 435.
Ibidem.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

RECENSIONES

conditions of possibility for an emergent


method of political analysis, particularly
as his selection of source materials is akin
to navigating a foreign city each chapter,
then, might best be construed as a sort of
neighborhood in Shapiros own polis-esque
subjectivity whose genre speaks for itself.
As chapter one, Geophilosophy,
Aesthetics, and the City, serves as an
introduction to the text as a whole and
contains the bulk of Shapiros theoretical
and methodological underpinning, it blurs
the lines of discernment that striate political science as a field of inquiry ultimately
concerned with rending intelligible the
plight of living, breathing bodies. In
this neighborhood, Shapiro elucidates
Dickenss cinematic style as a means to
ameliorate films unique ability to make
visible that which is invisible, which
speaks directly to the subjects not typically
granted agency within mainstream political
science (p. 3). He notes, The struggles
of marginalized people to manage their
life worlds and the rhythms of moving
bodies (often those that are politically
disenfranchised) in, through, and out of
urban spaces fail to gain disciplinary recognition as aspects of politically-relevant
problematics (p. 4). Couching his method
within the work of Jacques Rancire and
Maurice Blanchot, Shapiro puts forward
a poiesis of and for the city since what
the arts provide is less urban theory than
an approach to cities that generate ways to
think the political (p. 4). As a means to
distill this methodological distinction more
clearly, Shapiro compares the macropolitical
posture of Robert D. Putnams analysis of
civic traditions in contemporary Italy with
the micropolitics of Leonardo Sciascias
inaugural detective story, Day of the Owl,
to point towards the underlying political
ontology assumed within mainstream
political science, which affirms or allows
for only certain forms of subjectivity (p. 5).
Whereas macropolitics concerns itself
with psychological and/or ideological
subjects, Shapiros micropolitical method
seeks out aesthetic subjects, who
reveal the forces at work in the spaces
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

749
within which they move and to display
the multiplicity of subject positions historically created within those spaces (p. 7).
In criticizing the methodological purview
of mainstream political science, Shapiro
presents a critically-oriented politics
of aesthetics (p. 8) that employs a
variety of artistic genres in order to offer
a geophilosophical, political ontology
adequate to the modern city (p. 10). This
aversion to state-level thinking focuses
on body-city relationships and emanates,
in part, from Rancires assertion that
political subjectivity results from events
that produce and have the potential to
redistribute ones experiential sensorium.
Discerning such movements from an
African-American detective traversing
the racialized spaces of 1950s L.A. in
Franklins Devil with a Blue Dress and the
spaces of economic and legal marginality
and spaces of privilege in David Frears
Dirty Pretty Things, which effectively
updates Dickenss London, Shapiro
takes the reader on a journey through the
otherwise invisible spaces of cities as a
means to imag(in)e the embodied politics of
space (p. 16). Furthermore, Franklins dual
rendering of London as a city for tourists as
well as vulnerable in-migrants seeking to
make ends meet, at times via extreme ends,
also speaks to the dual economies endemic
to the modern city, which remains tied
to the geopolitical flows of transnational
capital that captures and renders bodies
spatially (p. 18). In his concluding remarks
on the first chapter, Shapiro speaks to his
method more directly, and he situates it by
borrowing the concept of philopoesis
from Cesare Cesarino in relation to the
sense-based inquiries of Deleuze and
Rancire as such renderings of political
subjectivity disturb the familiar divisions
of knowledge (p. 24). For Shapiro, this
disturbance beckons a poetics of the city,
a series of interventions that figure the city
by composing encounters between artistic
texts and conceptual frames (effectively,
art-knowledge encounters), which, as
method, attempts to illuminate aspects
of the actual encounters that constitute the
micropolitics of urban life worlds (p. 24).

750
Chapter two, The Now Time(s) of the
Global City, confronts Hegels inability to
reconcile the discontinuous dimensions of
city life within the progressive macropolitics
of the nation. For Shapiro, this represents
an allegiance to the state that continues to
haunt mainstream political science, and
performing a theoretical exorcism using
the work of Walter Benjamin and Achille
Mbembe, Shapiro outlines the colonial
exportation of European time as exemplary
of a unified World Historical time within
Hegelian thought. In this neighborhood,
Shapiro, in concert with Deleuze, affirms
that his method concerns itself with what
art does rather than [...] what it expresses
(p. 31). This Deleuzian approach inheres in
its ability to show that there is a multiplicity
of ways of having the past in the present,
as well as showing that any present is
radically contingent, which, for Shapiro,
is equally present within the disjunctive
spaces and temporal flows of city life
(p. 32). Whereas Hegel renders temporality
as the linear movement of national interests
the macropolitical par excellence, Shapiro,
via the spatiality of Benjamin and Henri
Lefebvre, finds alternative experiential
bases for the acts that produce parallel
temporalities, which he terms the nowtime as city-time (p. 39). Ultimately,
Shapiro moves to reconsider the contact
zones for political subjectivity intrinsic to
global cities as sites of sensory encounters
whose affect negates the hegemonic
temporality of predominantly nationalist,
which is also to say Hegelian, discourses
within mainstream political science (p. 45).
Chapter three, Managing Urban
Security: City Walls and Policing Metis,
looks to the genre of the detective novel
to illuminate the strategies that diverse
social types employ to flourish or survive
in the face of procedures and structures
of surveillance and control (p. 46). In
this neighborhood, the city becomes a site
of encounter between bodies and statist
policies seeking to manage urban space as a
sort of battlefield for the contemporary (socioeconomic) war requisite to global capitalism
indeed, cities becomes ground zero for such

RECENSIONES

encounters as urban space often reflects


the destabilizing impacts of statist agendas
in increasingly transnational contexts.
Concluding with a thorough engagement
of aesthetic subjects in Joel Schumachers
Falling Down, Shapiro returns to Rancires
formula for political subjectivity through
the encounter of two bodies one
criminal and the other law-enforcing to
demonstrate the policing, in Rancirian
terms, and inversely proportionate metis,
or embodied knowledge of space, enacted
within contemporary global cities, and this
dimensionality and subsequent relationality produces a city whose internal
defenses preempt politics in favor of a
rigidly contained urban warfare, one that
often remains invisible within mainstream
political science (p. 67).
In chapter four, Neo-noir and Urban
Domesticity: the Wachowski Brothers
Bound, Shapiro explores the bodybuilding relationships of cinema as it
provides a lens with which to situate the
architecture of urban and domestic space as
one integral in conditioning subjects (p. 73).
Juxtaposing the feminine aesthetic subjects
of Bound with Billy Wilders classic film,
Double Endemnity, Shapiro thoughtfully
engages the inter-articulation between the
economies of the households and the roles
of architecture in both films as both distort
the normative gendering of subjectivity
essential to capital exchange within both
urban and suburban America (p. 79). In
this neighborhood, Shapiro challenges the
separation between the nation-state and the
home through a politics of aesthetics that
reframes the venerable and widely accepted
political topology that has separated the
significance of actions within domestic
space from those in public space, which
he draws from Bounds critical reframing of
the noir genre as one where the economies
of urban space remain shackled to the
micropolitics of urban space (p. 88).
Chapter five, Gothic Philadelphia:
Divided Subjects and Fractioned Assemblages, grants Shapiro the opportunity to
consider the conditions of possibility for
a politics that is hospitable to disaccord
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

RECENSIONES

and dissonance, to aspects of identity,


allegiance, and experience that resist integration at both the level of the territory
and the subject of consciousness through
the striated topography of Philadelphia
the city of brotherly love as a site that
is emblematic of the radically constructed
alterity of urban space and its subjects
(p. 90). Locating this duality within Tom/
Joey, a mobster turned family man, in
David Cronenbergs A History of Violence,
Shapiro maps a Gothic otherness where
the gloomy interiors of the subjects duality
match the architecture of an urban space
where the subjects past, bodily as well as
spatially, re-emerges in a fatal confrontation
with his brother, Richie (p. 96). As with these
aesthetic subjects, Shapiro finds this Gothic
otherness embedded within the spatial
history of Philadelphia as a city concealing
the Gothic underside of the Americas
freedom-founding event (p. 107). Noting
the exclusion of black bodies as persons
from the nations founding documents
and the continuing spatiality of racial
divisions within Philadelphia, Shapiro
paints a rich portrait of a city space where
heteroglossic aesthetic assemblages clash,
often violently, through various genres, and
the variety of texts at the authors disposal
alludes to the multiplicity of subjectivities
apparent within the space of the city. In
this neighborhood, writing the politics
of the city, as such, becomes a means to
affront the homologous agency of national
subjectivity, and Shapiro challenges the
reader to consider how to frame the
micropolitics of urban communities when
both selfhood and collective life are lent
complexities that habitual perceptual
practices and institutionalized gazes tend
to efface (p. 115).
In chapter six, Bodies and the City:
Washington DC, Shapiro takes on the
structural duality of the nations capitol
that contains collective bodies with law
and policy-making powers and the
individual bodies of the African American
population involved in managing their
life world (p. 120). Using Edward P.
Joness Washington Stories to cement this
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

751
juxtaposition, Shapiro highlights the space
of the city as one that affirms the authority
of the nation-state both in form, streets and
architecture, and in content, specifically the
history of slavery and, more recently, high
incarceration rates for African Americans.
In this neighborhood, Joness stories offer
an alternate narrative of metropolitan
survival that remains invisible with
regards to the macropolitics of DC as the
site of statist agendas, and it is this hidden
cityscape that contains power-invested
exchanges of [...] sense that articulate
the micropolitics of bodily encounter
(p. 130). Delineating between the history
of the collectivist city and the memory of
individual bodies, Shapiro situates Joness
fiction as presencing an ethopoetic
knowledge of DC, which, in Foucaldian
terms, is knowledge that in turn produces
an ethos (p. 136). This knowing, which in
many ways links to earlier discussions of
metis, forms within the interior space of
the subjects experience of and potential
liberation from the discursive formations
at work within urban space.
Chapter seven, Walt Whitman and
the Ethnopoetics of New York, provides
an encounter between the shifting racial
and temporal configurations of New York
City where various authors articulate
alternative experiences of the city and
address alternate constituencies than those
initially framed by Whitmans influential
poesis (p. 142). Noting a shift in Whitmans
writing that links up with Benjamins
experience of urban space, Shapiro contends that the poet extols the city as an
inter-penetration of body- and imagespace as he deploys a haptic mode of
perception where his Kantian fixation on
consciousness [] is displaced by a bodily
charge he receives from other bodies
(p. 145). While Whitmans transformation
exhibits a sensory sensitivity to the city as
embodied space, his composition of urban
space remains decidedly homogenous, and
Shapiro contrasts his work with the writings
of Ralph Ellison, Langston Hughes, John
Yau, and The Nyuoricans to grant voice to
New Yorks ethnic diversity, which alludes

752
to the mythic nature of Whitmans poiesis.
In this neighborhood, the cacophony of
poetic voices reach across both the vertical
(temporal) and horizontal (spatial) axes
of subjectivity and fill the city that never
sleeps with a symphony of discordant
subjects, who often remain silenced within
mainstream political science.
In chapter eight, Inter-city Cinema:
Hong Kong and the Berlinale Shapiro
crafts an auto-ethnography alongside a
reading of Nai-Hoi Yaus Eye in the Sky, and
genre comes to the fore as the lines between
author/director fade into the globalizing
neighborhood of a truly plural subject.
Using food as a point of entry for making
sense of the spatial flow of bodies in Hong
Kong, Shapiro links the temporal ordering
of the film, with his own spatio-temporal
positioning as an attendee at a film festival
in Berlin in 2007, and the temporal rhythms
of the city become the measure by which
subjects, including Shapiro, stay attuned
spatially, especially as he encounters the
micropolitics of Berlins transition from
a Cold War-era hot spot to democratic
luminary. Noting the resonances between
Hong Kong and Berlin, Shapiro observes:
And while contemporary Hong Kong
cinema is one of the primary genres within
which the citys Chinese identity is thought
and negotiated [], the negotiation of
Berlins participation of Germaneness
has been centered on the architectural
projects through which Berlin has sought
to transcend its stigmatized past (p. 182).
Stepping onto the street/screen, Shapiros
embodied knowledge of Berlin, in part as
a cinematic heterotopia, provides the
primary lens with which his reading of
Eye situates the geo-poetics, so to speak, of
urban space (p. 163).
In closing this engagement with The
Time of the City, I would like to return

RECENSIONES

to another point raised by the previous


reviewer: The problems of social power
and inequality within urban space are
real. But it seems to me that this requires
an analysis of the mechanisms of power
for any theory to be counted as political,
in any genuine sense of the word5. The
question of genuine sense certainly
pervades The Time of the City, but whereas
mainstream political science only affirms a
particular genus of subjectivity, Shapiro sets
out to disturb these formulaic discursive
categories, both in theory and method. As
a means to enliven the problems of social
power and inequality within urban space,
macropolitics, as genre, cannot adequately
give voice to the micropolitics of everyday
life, which challenges the ideation that power
relations and their corollary mechanism
of power are hegemonic. In cities as with
subjects, and perhaps within the discipline
of political science, there are always lines
of flight, in the parlance of Deleuze and
Guattari, but, as the sentiments found in the
previous review of Shapiros text affirms,
the signifying regime cannot tolerate []
an absolute deterritorialization6. In its
reframing of subjectivity, Shapiros The Time
of the City is a work of the highest order,
and it opens a space where truly aesthetic
subjects can think the political in ways
that mainstream political science simply
cannot, which might not be genuine but
rather ingenious.
JOHN A. SWEENEY

Ibidem.
Gilles DELEUZE, Felix GUATTARI, A
Thousand...cit, p. 116.
6

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

RECENSIONES

753

BORIS GROYS
Art Power
MIT Press, Cambridge, 2008, 190 pp.
Considering the depth and sophistication of the argument presented by
philosopher and art critic Boris Groys in
his 2008 text Art Power, it is certainly no
easy task to attempt to condense it into a
singular statement. But if I had to do so, I
would argue that the main issue at the core
of Art Power is a critique of contemporary
ideology through an analysis of the
different facets of contemporary art, and its
relationship with power; a power whose
ideology is an invisible and yet visionary
machine, which cannot help but cannibalize
anything it encounters: whether it be market
commodities or political propaganda.
The fundamental premise of Groys
argument lies in his open rejection of what
he calls the dogma of pluralism. The
commonly accepted argument that modern
and contemporary art are radically pluralistic results, he argues, in the commonly
experienced impossibility of looking at
any kind of modern or contemporary art
as a specific phenomenon. Pluralism is
illusory, according to Groys, for at the same
time it includes and excludes everything.
And, if it is true that there are nothing
but differences as far as the eye can see,
then not only could any particular art
work be considered as exemplary of a
specific art movement, but also, and more
importantly, any discourse on art would
become just futile and frustrating. For
Groys, instead of being a pluralistic field,
the field of modern and contemporary art is
a field strictly structured according to the
logic of contradiction, in which, de facto,
paradox is the one and only protagonist.
Contemporary art, in fact, seems to embody
an attempt to reach that unattainable
balance of power between thesis and
antithesis, which is the balance struggled
for by modern revolutionary totalitarian
movements and states, a balance that
late-capitalist ideology strives to embody.
Art Powers main concern is to address
whether or not contemporary art, which
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

in itself is always-already (self-)critical


and paradoxical, can ever be considered as
truly political art (pp. 1-2).
Before venturing into a more detailed
analysis of the text, I would suggest that
we should look at Art Power as more
than a collection of succeeding essays.
Art Power is a vertiginous journey: a
kaleidoscopically interpretative journey
that moves from the power of art to the art
of power, and back again. What, at first
glance, may look like a theoretical matrix
of various and disconnected topics, is,
on the contrary, constructed around a
cohesive investigation. Groys investigates
the nature and meaning of art, of time and
space in art, of curatorship and authorship,
and the relationship between image and
text, which he sees as being foundational
in contemporary ideology. He analyses
the potentialities and the limits of the
iconoclastic struggle that art has historically
engaged in against the power of ideology,
that is to say, against the power of images
(p. 9). It is through the problematisation of
this constantly present, and yet more often
than not invisible, struggle, that Art Power
rhizomatically develops and lures the
reader into its labyrinthine argumentation.
The first part of the text deals with
the power of the opaque expression contemporary art, in which contemporary
[con-tempus] means together-with-time
and not in-the-present-time. Groys in Art
Power seems to echo Giorgio Agambens
theorization of the contemporary, which,
for the Italian philosopher, is a concept
that implies always a caesura and a discontinuity causing a special relationship between the different times1. The

1
Giorgio AGAMBEN, What is the
Contemporary?, in IDEM What is an Apparatus? And Other Essays, trans. David Kishik
and Stefen Pedatella, Stanford University
Press, Stanford, 2009, pp. 39-54/p. 52.

754
experience of that relationship of different
times is at the core of Groys critique of
aesthetic equality. In order to counteract the
utopia of the formal equality of images,
Groys advocates for the crucial role that
art institutions and museums should play
in contemporary times, for these are the
only places where the visual vocabulary
of the contemporary mass-media can be
critically compared to the art heritage of
the previous epochs (p. 18). The necessary
differentiation between old and new, past
and present is what Groys recognizes as
being pivotal to the understanding of his
assertion that reality itself is secondary
in relation to the museum the real can
be defined only in comparison with the
museum collection (p. 24). Furthermore,
he asserts, the museum is not so much a
space for the representation of art history
as a machine that produces and stages []
today, as such (p. 30).
The issue of time is addressed,
once again, when Groys investigates the
intrusion of video installations into the
space of the museum. He argues that in this
case there is no art object that should be
enlightened, examined and judged by the
museum, rather, what video installations
do is to bring, through their technologically
produced image[s], their own light into
the darkness of the museum space-and only
for a certain period of time. Therefore,
what is at stake with video installations in
museums is not just control over the light,
but also control over the time necessary for
contemplation, which, Groys claims, now
escapes the viewers control (p. 40). Groys
argument concerning the problematic
issue of time in contemporaneity is further
developed throughout the text. In two
of the most challenging and engaging
chapters of Art Power, namely, Art in
the Age of Biopolitics: From Artwork to
Art Documentation and From Image
to Image File-and Back: Art in the Age of
Digitalisation Groys engages in a doubleedged dialogue: in the foreground, with
Walter Benjamin, while in the background
with the contemporary theorists of biopolitics. Art, according to Groys, becomes
biopolitical when it uses artistic means

RECENSIONES

to produce and document life as a pure


activity [] as pure duration; which,
undoubtedly, mirrors the main achievement
of biopolitical technologies: The shaping
of the lifespan [] of life as a pure activity
that occurs in time (pp. 54-55). Therefore
for Groys, what we experience, not only in
art and politics, but also in ideology, is that
the only difference between the real and the
artificial has been reduced to a narrative
one (p. 57). The blurred difference between
real and artificial, original and copy, is
exemplified in the essence of the digital
image, a copy, which nonetheless has no
visible original. The paradoxical nature
of narrative difference is then ingeniously
identified by Groys in the event of the
visualization of the digital image itself, an
event that then becomes the original of the
digital image as such. In other words, what
Groys stresses here is that for any digital
image to appear, a performative and staged
event needs to take place (pp. 84-85).
His claim that criticism is as necessary
now as ever, not just to overcome the
utopian realm of aesthetic equality, but
also to reinstitute art institutions with the
autonomous figure of the curator, could
be read as the fil rouge of the first part of
Art Power. However, what bridges the two
parts of the text is the acknowledgment
that the differences between the artist, the
art critic, and the curator are increasingly
tending toward disappearance. It is at
this point that Groys moves from the power
of art to the art of power. He introduces us
to the second part of the text by stating
that what counts, instead of the differences
referred to above, is the artificial dividing
lines in cultural politics (p. 118). Groys
radically states that there is no difference
anymore between violence and art,
between war and art, when looked at from
an ideological perspective. He proposes an
intriguing analysis of the pervasiveness
of images of violence in contemporary
culture, identifying a disturbingly similar
ideological agenda within them all. If on
the one hand, we are faced with terrorists,
such as Osama Bin Laden, who, like video
artists, communicate primarily by means
of recorded videos and staged images. On
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

755

RECENSIONES

the other, we are also faced with counterterrorists, such as the American soldiers,
who in the infamous photographs and videos
from the Abu-Ghraib prison, have displayed,
Groys argues, an unsettling aesthetic
resemblance with European and American
Art of the 1960s and the 1970s (p. 122).
Groys identifies in the elimination
of the artist from the practice of the image
production the extraordinary trait of
contemporaneity, in which, nonetheless,
the images produced become the icons of
the contemporary collective imagination.
The main difference between radical
artists and terrorists/counter-terrorists,
according to Groys, lies in that shade of
the term radical which is related to
iconoclasm. While radical artists very
much question our belief in the images;
what contemporary ideology does instead
is to reinforce the belief in the image,
to reinforce the iconophilic seduction.
The iconophilic desire, so as to end the
history of iconoclasm. To end the critique
of representation (p. 125). Terrorists and
anti-terrorists are, for Groys, the enemies
of art because their embedded imageproduction machine tries to create
images that are true and real-beyond any
criticism of representation (p. 126). Our
contemporary fascination with the images
of the political sublime Groys proposes
can be interpreted as a specific case of
nostalgia for the masterpiece, for a true,
real image (p. 129). His is an alternative
reading to those offered by todays critical
theorists, such as Hal Foster and his concept
of the return of the real2, which Groys
only alludes to (p. 126).
The very same analysis that Groys
undertakes of the shared ideological
imagery of terrorism and counter-terrorism is then tested against the grain of
the concept of the heroic, as embodied by
Fascism and Nazism. For the author, these
regimes, by introducing the age of the
body, introduced a resistance against art
in favour of life as such. In this argument

of Groys we can discern the germinal cells


of the contemporary biopolitical discourse.
Groys rightly points out that making the
body the message requires above all an
arena, a stage or, alternatively, it requires
modern reporting, a public created by
the media (p. 131). Groys argues that
having the body as the only message and
protagonist of mass culture results in the
contemporary ideological preoccupation
with diversity and otherness, which
seems to engage at a certain level with
Wendy Browns analysis of contemporary
ideological tolerance3.
In the closing section of the fascinating
intellectual adventure that Art Power is,
Groys openly reveals his critique of the
late-capitalist credo on universalism,
according to which mass culture addresses everyone simultaneously. In opposition to traditional communities, in which
members were linked to one another
by a shared past, Groys describes the
contemporary communities produced by
mass culture (television spectators; movie
goers; internet surfers; bloggers; etc.) as
being communities with no preconditions,
communities of a new type (p. 181). These
communities of viewers are, for him, the
public of todays art of exhibitions and
installations, an art that assumes that what
the viewers are willing to experience is not
the singular work of art anymore, but rather
the illusion to take in the whole room
simultaneously with their gaze. In response
to his opening question if contemporary art
can ever be considered as truly political,
Groys answer is twofold. While he
asserts that, today, art is political only on a
purely formal level, he also maintains that
contemporary art practice demonstrates
the position of the alien in todays culture
more adequately than politics does, which
enables art to offer a way to distinguish the
familiar from the alien, a way that politics
itself fails to offer (p. 182).
GABRIELLA CALCHI-NOVATI
3

Hal FOSTER, The Return of the Real, The


MIT Press, Cambridge MA, London, 1996.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Wendy BROWN, Regulating Aversion:


Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire,
Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2006.

756

RECENSIONES

PIOTR PIOTROWSKI
In the Shadow of Yalta: Art and the Avant-garde in Eastern Europe, 1945-1989
Translated by Anna Brzyski
Reaktion Books, London, 2009, 487 pp.
A picture is worth a thousand words,
or so they say. This time World View II The
Great World View does that, and Ralf Winkler,
better known under the pseudonym of
A.R. Penck, is responsible for representing
in 1965 the duality that he felt in the cold
context of the war that divided the world.
The division was even more visible in
GDR, half-a-country that had to mobilize
itself behind the newly erected Berlin
Wall. Using his simplified human figures,
Penck, or should we call him Winkler,
depicts the partition that is no longer local,
but global. The general attitude of the
face-to-face figures is more than dynamic.
The entire surface suspended in space is
engulfed in a confrontation which Winkler
witnesses from the right-hand corner of the
representation.
Together with World View II The Great
World View other 223 illustrations perform
the daunting task of a mise en scne in the
context of the Eastern Bloc abruptly sent on
the left half of the political spectrum after
Yalta. Currently Professor Ordinarius at
the Adam Mickiewicz University (Poznan,
Poland) and responsible for the Art History
Department, Piotr Piotrowski entitles
his volume so to avoid even the slightest
shadow of a doubt when placing the
study of the Art and the Avant-garde in
Eastern Europe immediatly after the Yalta
episode.
The reader is expecting to experience
and comprehend art from Eastern Europe,
but the Polish author does not aspire to a
homogenized view of the region (p. 11), but
rather to the varied topography of the map
of art in Eastern Europe (p. 12). Sensibly
influenced by the Western approach of
artistic practices, Eastern European artists
were cut away from the universalism of
one art history (p. 19) (i.e. the Western one
with the centre situated in Paris) and were
left facing the restrictions of the Socialist
Realism omnipresent in the Soviet Bloc. So

the artistic geography is thought mostly in


terms of centers and peripheries1.
Within the map to be analyzed, Piotrowski mainly included Czechoslovakia,
Yugoslavia, East Germany, Poland, Romania
and Hungary. Bulgaria is also present, but
to a lesser extent. As for Albania and the
Soviet Union, their post-war experience of
modern art was not considered sufficient as
to consecrate it an additional study within
this volume. These main actors are then
filtered through three parts placing the
analysis, firstly before 1948 and carrying
it through until the fall of the regimes in
1989. The epilogue situates a birds eye
view over the end of Communism and its
impact on the art production in the same
spaces enumerated earlier.
The Polish Professor chose to a cast
a contextualized view over the countries
included in this analysis and this method
imposed the varied topography stated from
ground zero as a method of contrasting
histories and, as a consequence, different
art productions. This is why the death of
Stalin (1953) produced a wave of illusion
regarding a de-stalinization, or a thorough
thaw. Soon afterwards, the Berlin uprising
of 1953 in East Germany, the Hungarian
Revolution of 1956, the construction in
1961 of the Berlin Wall, the Prague Spring
in 1968 took place. These events mixed
with the pre-war tradition of modern art
influenced the art manifestations which
mostly fell into the unofficial category
(grey zone). The official background was
1
Piotr PIOTROWSKI, Toward a Horizontal History of the European Avant-Garde,
apud Sascha BRU, Jan BAETENS, Peter
NICHOLLS, Benedikt HJARTRSON,Tanja
RUM, Hubert van den BERG (eds.), Europa!
Europa?: the Avant-garde, Modernism, and the
Fate of a Continent, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin,
2009, p. 51.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

RECENSIONES

covered by Socialist Realism, a category


that is omnipresent in Piotrowskis analysis
and that was proclaimed first at the 1932
Soviet Congress, regarding the literary and
artistic organizations that were dissolved
and restructured2. Nevertheless, the author
chooses not to insist on this matter. The
only clear fact that the reader is given
on this subject is the negative reference
regarding Socialist Realism. The research
must have been driven by a question
considering both the importance of the
anti-Communist resistance and the artistic
practices posterior to the end of World War
II. So, does the anti-Communist resistance
define the production of art in the shadow
of Yalta?
The Kunstgeographie chosen by the
Polish art historian cannot be removed
from the context. His approach, although it
relies hugely on comparison, cannot extract
the conclusions until having processed
the relationships between culture and
politics. As such, an entire range of historic
factors must be taken into consideration,
factors that ultimately led to the varied
topography responsible for different art
productions and different responses to
the official doctrine, a hypothesis proven
mostly a priori.
Between 1945 and 1948, some countries
from the Eastern Bloc experienced the
Surrealist Interregnum (pp. 33-57). At
that time, the doctrine of Socialist Realism
was not fully imposed. Still, surrealism in
Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland was
the first artistic medium that translated the
resistance preparing to erupt. Group 42 of
Czechoslovakia and the European School of
Hungary were national products tracing
their roots before the War. They still longed
for Paris as a main point of reference. Poland
has seen surrealism as a remedy even
before the other two countries. Anyway the
declaration regarding the responsibility of
the artist to create in accordance with the
Socialist Realism doctrine soon arrived,
2

Rgine ROBIN, Socialist Realism: an


Impossible Aesthetic, Stanford University Press,
Stanford, California, 1992, p. 37.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

757
leaving even Czechoslovakia with two
unpublished issues of the local surrealist
journal.
Stalins death in 1953 caused a tacit, but
vivid confrontation between Modernism
and Totalitarianism (pp. 59-237). The thaw
caused by the disappearance of the Soviet
leader was largely expected to impose
changes of a liberal sort and the artists
certainly were encouraged by the illusion
of the possible end of obstruction in the
cultural field, at least at an official level.
Going straight to the late 1950s and 1960s,
Art Informel, geometric abstraction, new
figuration, Pop-art represented the weapons
conceived against Socialist Realism.
In the context of Art Informel, Csernus
created an anti-Communist statement
using intelligentsia and the culture caf,
symbols massively contradicting the
official doctrine. Another advantage of
this form of art was its vicinity to the
notion of modernity, which logically led
to participation in contemporary art.
Hungarian artists Krisztin Frey and Endre
Tt also began creating outside the official
culture. In Czechoslovakia the works were
also featured only in private shows as was
the Exhibition of the Eleven in 1955. Here
the Art informel did not reach the expected
impact, the surrealism still dominating the
scene. The Polish case is somewhat different because at the beginning of the 1950s
the Communist Party decided to allow
no more than 15% of abstraction in an
exhibition. This had no significant impact
on the local art production especially if we
are to consider the works par excellence
informel of Tadeusz Kantor, whose exhibition featured his first canvases in
Poland in 1956. Kantor is also the author
of the manifesto of the Polish Art Informel,
which translation can be seen in the bestknown work of Kantor, Amarapura (1957).
The lack of preconceived compositional
structure and the violent brushwork stand
for this work as an informel one. There was
international communication between
these actors. One example is given by the
joint exhibition Argumentus (1962) which
featured both Polish and Czech artists.

758
The gallery that made such an initiative
possible even for Czechoslovakia was the
Warped Wheel Gallery (Warsaw). Because
they were not entirely isolated from one
another further developments of artistic
expressions relied on such exchanges.
In the context of the Romanian and
Bulgarian reception of Art Informel, we can
quote two important names from Romania:
Lszl Albert and Ciprian Radovan.
On the southern side of the Danube, the
Bulgarian artists lacked a local tradition
of art capable of rupture with the official
discourse. The April Generation was the
only exhibition that showed a modernized version of the omnipresent Socialist
Realism.
Furthermore, it seems that neoConstructivism had a longer and more
significant impact on the art production
in Eastern Europe than its chronological
predecessor. This was not necessarily true
for Yugoslavia that, after its separation from
the Soviet Bloc in 1948, chose to continually
experience with informel as a negative
response to the growing popularity
of neo-Constructivism. If this was the
case for Belgrade, Zagreb (1961-1970)
was the key international centre of neoConstructivism due to the early creation
of the Exat-51 group. Still in the grey zone,
they managed to exhibit in Paris, export
possible only because of the split between
Tito and Stalin in 1948. Due to the adoption
by the Yugoslav regime of a laissez-faire
attitude towards cultural matters in
general, the appropriation of Modernism
within this space was less difficult. A
specific cultural policy established by the
state was not available. To the north, the
Romanian artists experienced a similar
state of permissive cultural expression
a thaw in the mid 1960s under the new
and at the beginning unexpectedly liberal
leader, Nicolae Ceauescu. This, however,
ended in the early 1970s when the regime
became increasingly intolerant. Roman
Cotoman was the initial leader of the
Group III together with tefan Bertalan
and Constantin Flondor. The emigration
that followed was massive and the second

RECENSIONES

group, Sigma, formed only by Bertalan and


Flondor was scattered by the end of the
decade.
At the opposite end, Poland had a very
well defined tradition of Constructivist
art and Henryk Stazewski was its main
representative. A certain cultural liberalization was also felt by Hungary, shaped
by the so called goulash Communism
introduced by Jnos Kadar. The deviation
from Stalinist principles was not definitive
in Czechoslovakia that returned to a period
of normalization after the suppression of the
Prague Spring that briefly threatened the
totalitarian order. The avant-garde from
Bratislava and Prague was consequently
sent into the dark underground.
Hungarian artists were seduced by the
stylistic and representational conventions
of Pop art. Still, they were not interested
in criticizing consumerism, in the Western
sense. On the contrary, the lack of concurrence that dominates consumerism led
irreversibly to a kind of nostalgia for this
consumer culture. Lszl Lakner was an
illustrious figure of the Hungarian Pop
art. Almost the same tendency regarding
the nostalgia for consumerism, and not
its critique, appeared in Czechoslovakia
through the voice of Alex Mlynrik that
used ready-mades (mannequins) in order
to express that feeling.
It is important to mention that new
figuration had different explanations
in each national context. In Hungary,
East Germany and Czechoslovakia this
type of art experiment developed as
a means of resistance against the ever
expanding totalitarianism threat, although
liberalization was somewhat capable of
entering their political scenes. However,
this was not true for Poland and Yugoslavia
that fell into a different category regarding
new figuration because their cultural policy
permitted a certain separation from the
official art. Here, new figuration was chosen
to act against the dominance of modernism,
since the neo-avant-garde was gaining
territory on the eastern side of Europe.
As for Romania, the artists here were not
confronting themselves with the newer
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

759

RECENSIONES

doctrine of new figuration, but instead had


to continuously resist Socialist Realism,
since Modernism was quickly removed
from the official culture.
In the sense of a reinstatement of art
and subjectivity, artists moved towards
the critique of painting and the (re)conceptualization of the object as the primary
form of reality. The autonomy of art was
reinstituted through the means of neoavant-garde starting with the late 1950s by
such art-groups as Gorgona (Croatia, since
1959). By trying to fully eliminate painting
from the visual arts, Eastern Europe was
facing at that time the first manifestation
of conceptual art. Vanita and Mangelos left
that particularly clear by choosing the nonrepresentational painting. The questioning
of arts visuality trespassed until reaching
Slovenia and the Oho group (1966) that
turned to the simplified reality of reism in
order to maintain their critique against the
Modern art. With a homage to Duchamp
in mind, the Polish artist Wodzimierz
Borowski adopted objects with no artistic
value whatsoever into his type of art
representation (artons). By doing that, he
reached another myth that of the artist.
Tadeusz Kantor, Andrej Matuszewski and
Jerzy Rosoowicz followed him by adding
objects taken from everyday life into their
works. Because of the different political
environment, Hungary (which saw the
political doctrine of the 3Ts: Tolerate,
Prohibit, Support) and Czechoslovakia (normalization) throughout the period of the
1960s were more interested in defending
painting rather than criticizing it. Although
mostly absent in the GDR and Romania,
Pop art was seen in Slovakia and it was
Stano Filko that reached the radicalization
of the critique of painting.
The next part of Piotrowskis ample
work (The Neo-avant-garde and Real
Socialism in the 1970s pp. 238-387) is
dedicated to the various manifestations of
neo-avant-garde with particular focus on
conceptual art and body art. Consequently,
this part engages ample discussions concerning the human identity, in contradiction
to the uniformization of the homo sovieticus
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

and his state-dependency3, and gender


politics. Of course, neo-avant-garde art
was largely functioning in the grey zone. It
is important to clarify that once a regime
was even partially liberalized, especially
at a cultural level, turning back was
impossible. This is the case of Romania
where, despite the repressive cultural
policies inscribed into the July Theses (1971),
the number of art manifestations did not
suffer immediately. Because they had to
constantly avoid contact with the official
channels and refrain from mixing within
inappropriate social networks, Constantin
Flondor adopted mail art as a form of
exhibiting his art productions (sending
his artwork in other national contexts). On
another side, Ion Bitzan tried not to engage
in a fully-fledged critique of the official
system because he was granted permission
to travel and to exhibit outside the national
boundaries.
In the GDR the division between
official and unofficial art was also clearcut, but here too Robert Rehfeldt managed
to introduce the mail art movement.
This was also the case of Endre Tt in
Hungary. In Poland the arrival of Edward
Gierek as the new political leader and the
abandon of the Stalinist cultural policies in
Yugoslavia, made way for a shift towards
conceptualization, seen as a complete
freedom of expression. In Czechoslovakia
and Hungary, they remained poorly
tolerated by the authorities. Nevertheless,
Endre Tt engaged in the so-called tautological construction of statements as a way of
criticizing the lack of communication in a
Communist state.
The male and female body art also
constituted an object of interpretation
mainly because they were intended to
articulate the greater importance of physicality and materiality over visuality. Alina
Szapocznikov did that by reliving the
traumatic cancer through art productions
shaped as tumors. Marina Abramovi,
3

Bruno GRANCELLI, Social Change and


Modernization: Lessons from Eastern Europe,
Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, 1995, pp. 4-5.

760
on the other hand, questions the limits
of endurance of the body by subjecting
herself to all kinds of physical experiences
(the Rhythm series). The Romanian Ion
Grigorescu is one of the East-European
artists exploring the deconstruction of
gender by positioning it into the politics of
identity.
The last part of the book (Epilogue
pp. 388-439) looks at the artistic movements
of the 1980s such as neo-expressionism
and performance art and functions at the
same time as an epilogue. The end of the
Communist period witnessed art manifestations that almost predicted this very
end. The epilogue leaves the impression
that this end of the Communist era cleared
most of the differences, in fact the void,
between Eastern and Western Europe.
In fact, throughout the book, the tacit
comparison with Western culture influences the discourse and the analysis of
Piotrowski. The author constantly makes
references to Western developments in art
history Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Avant-garde although the beginning
had imposed the point of view of a varied
topography that was supposed to have
also separated the East from the West at
least from the point of view of major art
directions.
Another observation should be made
regarding Socialist Realism. This doctrine
is the main culprit that influenced the art
manifestations for almost half a century
after the end of the Second World War.
Even if it is seen as a constant negative
element that troubled communication,

RECENSIONES

awareness and the freedom of the artistic


speech, there is no available description of
the doctrine itself. There is no comment on
the exuberant use of Communist and socialist
imagery4. Nevertheless, Piotrowski does
insist on the unofficial art scene of the
whole period which he too considers as
very pluralistic and heterogeneous, reflecting
the plurality of styles being oppressed5.
It cannot escape notice the fact
that the map to be analyzed is mostly
unbalanced since the reader is flooded
with examples from Poland, East Germany,
and Czechoslovakia, while the accounts on
Yugoslavia, Romania or Bulgaria do not
seem equally rich. Although the reality of
the artistic life in these three last countries
might have caused the art historian not to
expand the analysis further, the description
of the approach from the beginning
promises a detailed view of the whole
region of Eastern Europe.
Nevertheless, until an even more detailed study on the matter, Piotr Piotrowski
affirmatively responded to the question:
Does the anti-Communist resistance
define the production of art in the shadow
of Yalta? leaving no doubt on the relation
between art and politics.
ALEXANDRA SORINA NEACU
4
Ale ERJAVEC, Boris GROYS (eds.),
Postmodernism and Postsocialist Condition:
Politicized Art under Late Socialism, University
of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles,
2003, p. 41.
5
Ibidem, p. 56.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

761

RECENSIONES

ANCA BENERA, ALINA ERBAN (ed.)


Materie i istorie. Monumentul public i distopiile lui
R.A. Monitorul Oficial, Bucureti, 2010, 317 pp.
Louvrage dAnca Benera et Alina
erban propose une rflexion au sujet
des diffrentes dclinaisons assumes par
le monument public dans le contexte de
lespace public roumain partir de 1848.
Leur analyse se dploie tout en accentuant
les divers volets de la question en
passant notamment par ltat dexception
de la cration des monuments, leurs
mcanismes de fonctionnement et leur
dimension publique. un niveau gnral,
Anca Benera et les autres auteurs qui ont
particip la ralisation de ce volume
(Ellen Blumenstein, Ioana Beldiman, Ioana
Vlasiu, Reuben Fowkes, Deborah Schultz,
Alina erban, Duncan Light, Ciprian
Mihali)1 suggrent une analyse plus ample
du rapport qui rgit les transformations
physiques et symboliques de lespace et du
monument public, en surprenant la fois
les connexions historiques, les pratiques
politiques et artistiques, les discours
publics et les ralits collectives.
Treize monuments diffrents font
lobjet de lanalyse de ce livre et se constituent dans le prtexte qui permet linvestigation des ressorts alimentant le rapport
entre art public, espace public, rgime
et discours politique. Anca Benera,
artiste visuel et Alina erban, professeur
dhistoire de lart ont imagin un livre
dont la structure atypique arrive surprendre la complexit du sujet trait.

Reuben FOWKES, Nu trieti dect


de dou ori: neobinuita via de apoi a
sculpturii socialist-realiste (pp. 213-233);
Deborah SCHULTZ, Monumentele ca
memorie vizual (pp. 235-250); Alina
ERBAN, Destinul monumentului public:
celebrare, abandon i iconoclasm politic
(pp. 251-269); Duncan LIGHT, Monumentele
abandonate i rmie ale peisajului socialist: Mausoleul comunist din Bucureti
(pp. 271-288); Ciprian MIHALI, De la identitatea-monument la identitatea-eveniment: O
trecere imposibil? (pp. 289-305)

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Le volume devient presquune gallrie


dart qui suit lvolution physique de
lespace urbain travers plus de cent
cinquante photographies accompagnant
les prsentations dtailles des monuments
tudis. Nanmoins, llment le plus
atypique, peut-tre, de ce livre est le fait
quil reprend ces prsentations sur un
support audio travers lequel une voix
projette celui qui coute dans un paysage
urbain qui nexiste pas ou plus dans le
prsent (p. 13).
Le livre met laccent sur le monument public de la perspective de son
appartenance la conscience publique et
principalement sous sa fonction de sujet
social et culturel. Afin de pouvoir retracer
les expriences ayant dfini lvolution de
lart public en Roumanie et les processus
ayant influenc le rgime visuel et
celui du pouvoir dans lespace public
roumain aprs 1848, louvrage analyse les
changements survenus au fil du temps au
niveau du rgime urbanistique, stylistique
et politique du monument. En dfinitive,
la question dont la rponse est recompose
tout au long de cet ouvrage est justement
lie aux raisons capables dexpliquer la
survie des reprsentations dans lespace
public. Le monument public en tant que tel
est suivi travers deux priodes distinctes:
la premire partir de 1848 jusquen 19482

La Statue de la Libert (conue par


Constantin Daniel Rosenthal, 23 juin-28 juin
1848), le monument de Pache Protopopescu
(par Ion Georgescu, 1899-1848), le monument
de I.C. Brtianu (par Ernest-Henri Dubois,
architecte Petre Antonescu, 1903-1948), le
monument de Lascr Catargiu (par Antonin
Merci, 1907-1962), le monument dEugeniu
Carada (par Ernest-Henri Dubois,1924-1952),
le monument des Hros du Corps Didactique
(par Ion Jalea, Arthur Verona et Cornel Medrea,
1930-1940), le monument de Take Ionescu (par
Ernest-Henri Dubois et Paul Smrndescu,

762
et la deuxime priode entre 1948 et
19903.
Cette tude des volutions du monument se constitue dans un essai danthropologie culturelle mettant en vidence les
pratiques culturelles et publiques travers
lesquelles se recompose une histoire sociale
du monument en Roumanie aprs 18484.
Aprs les fiches danalyse ralises pour
des monuments ayant domin lespace
public roumain, la contextualisation
de la gense du monument et de ses
modifications est investigue dans les essais
qui compltent le livre et qui suggrent
des cadres dinterprtation htrognes
de la question. Matire et histoire. Le
monument public et ses dystopies est une
tude qui propose une cl de lecture du
monument public en tant que cadre dans
lequel le pouvoir et la mmoire voluent en
permanence. Louvrage se dfinit dans les
termes dune incursion dans la vie daprs
du monument public, dans lvolution des
politiques identitaires et dans les processus
de reformation de lespace public. Les
arguments principaux du livre dcrivent les
logiques de fonctionnement du monument
dans le contexte de lespace public, cadre
dans lequel se manifestent la mmoire,
lhistoire, le discours et laction politique.
Lespace public reflte, au long de
lhistoire, les continuits et discontinuits
au niveau des reprsentations collectives,
mais il traduit aussi les rapports sociaux et
les diffrents modes de pense et daction
dune socit (p. 251). De tel quil est peru

1931-1957), le monument de lInfanterie (par


Ion Jalea et Nicolae Georgescu, 1936-1940),
le monument du Roi Charles I (par Ivan
Mestrovic, 1939-1948), le monument du Roi
Ferdinand I (par Ivan Mestrovic et larchitecte
Grigore Ionescu, 1940-1948).
3
Les monuments dI.V. Staline (par
Dumitru Demu, 1951-1956), le monument de
V.I. Lnine (par Boris Caragea et Horia Maicu,
1960-1990) et le monument de Petru Groza
(par Romulus Ladea, 1971-1990).
4
Alina ERBAN, Monumente i momente, in Anca BENERA, Alina ERBAN
(eds.), Materie i istorie...cit., p. 10.

RECENSIONES

dans les essais composant ce volume,


lespace public, endroit o les prsences
historiques, les faits sociaux et les ides
sont entretenues, dsigne un rseau de
narrations et de ralits collectives en
permanente interdpendance les unes par
rapport aux autres contribuant de cette
manire la formation et la cristallisation
des pratiques et des discours politiques.
De manire effective, lespace public
devient un site de la mmoire o lon
peut distinguer le fonctionnement dun
processus cyclique de rvision continuelle
des expriences communes historiques de
la conscience commune. Dans ce cadre,
la lgitimation des diffrents rgimes
politiques se ralise par linstrumentalisation des images en raison de leur capacit
de rinvestir continuellement lespace
avec des signifiants. Pouvant former la
crdibilit publique et crer les solidarits
sociales travers le modelage des
consciences, la reprsentation des idaux et
la manifestation des intentions, les images
deviennent, daprs la logique de Bruno
Latour5, une source de vandalisme et de
conflit, mais en mme temps de consensus
et de vnration.
Le dessein central de ce volume est
celui de relever les ressorts intrieurs du
rapport entre la matire et le symbole
dans le contexte de lespace public.
Effectivement, laccent port par les
auteurs est mis sur le monument en tant
que construction mdiatique car il arrive
gnrer les symboles, transposer les
expriences collectives et exprimer les
ralits locales constamment recomposes
afin de maintenir la solidarit publique
ou de promouvoir une srie de thses. De
cette manire, le monument public et ses
mtamorphoses dans le temps gardent les
traces visuelles de loubli collectif, de la
disparition physique, de la perptuation
5

Bruno LATOUR, What is Iconoclash?


Or There is a World beyond the Image
Wars?, http://www.bruno-latour.fr/articles/
article/084.html. Apud Alina ERBAN, Destinul monumentului public...cit., pp. 251-269/
p. 254.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

763

RECENSIONES

des traditions artistiques, de lengrenage


des ambitions monumentales, de la
rhtorique du politique, de la perte de la
crdibilit publique, de lidoltrie o du
vandalisme.
La toile de fond sur laquelle se
construisent les arguments de ce volume
est que les milieux nouveaux gnrent
des passs nouveaux et que, par voie de
consquence, la construction du nouveau
est directement lie la reconstruction
de lancien6. Le livre retrace le parcours
des monuments intentionnels7 comme
des formes physiques imagines afin de
pouvoir commmorer des personnages
ou des vnements historiques, formes
qui deviennent la manifestation physique
des modalits travers lesquelles un tat
propose la remmoration du pass.
Dans lample discussion concernant le
registre de fonctionnement du monument
public dans lespace et dans le temps,
chacun des essais composant ce livre
traite de diffrents aspects de la question.
Lhistoire du monument, les modalits de
constitution et de rglementation de son
rgime iconographique et son appareil
discursif sont une coordonne qui est
analyse paralllement lvolution de
la sphre publique en Roumanie comme
milieu principal dans lequel apparaissent
et subsistent les reprsentations publiques.
Reuben Fowkes, par exemple, se concentre
principalement sur lanalyse des ressorts
artistiques et politiques de la sculpture
raliste-socialiste et de sont volution dans
le temps. Plus en avant, Deborah Schultz
propose une tude dans le cadre de laquelle
les monuments sont considrs comme
constructions visuelles qui intgrent et
gardent les traces de la mmoire, tandis

quAlina erban les analyse sous la lumire


des rapports quils ont avec la sphre du
politique. Duncan Light met laccent sur
le rle jou par les monuments issus de
lpoque communiste dans le cadre de
lespace urbain postcommuniste et des
fonctions quils dtiennent dans ce contexte. Pour que dernirement, Ciprian
Mihali mette en exergue le rle de la ville
en tant que support matriel de la mise
en scne de lphmre monumental (De
lidentit-monument lidentit-vnement: un passage impossible?, p. 304)
Le monument se situe en directe liaison
avec la mmoire collective, publique, nationale, lment composant de la mmoire.
Or, la mmoire collective devient un point
central dinflexion de ce livre. Dans son
essai, Les monuments comme mmoire
visuelle, Deborah Schultz cite diffrents
auteurs afin de pouvoir dceler la
complexit et les nuances de ce que dfinit
la mmoire collective. Dans un premiers
temps, elle est par excellence multiple,
spcifique, collective, plurielle tout en
restant la fois individuelle8 car elle dure et
tire sa force du fait quelle se fonde sur un
ensemble cohrent de gens qui sont ceux
qui sen souviennent9. Dans un deuxime
temps, tout en recrant le pass, la mmoire
collective dcrit, en effet, le rapport trs
fin qui se construit entre la mmoire des
individus et le contexte de groupe dans
lequel ils voluent10.
La mmoire collective est analyse
sous la lumire du rapport quelle entretien
avec lhistoire. Appartenant conjointement
tous et personne, la mmoire prend ses
racines dans le concret dfini par lespace,
les gestes, les images et les objets, ayant

Rubie S. WATSON, Memory, History


and Opposition under State Socialism, Santa Fe,
School of American Research Press, 1994, p. 6.
Apud Deborah SCHULTZ, Monumentele...cit.,
pp. 235-250/p. 237.
7
Alois REIGL, The Modern Cult of
Monuments: Its Character and Its Origin,
Oppositions: A Journal for Ideas and Criticism,
no. 25, 1982, p. 21. Apud ibidem, p. 237.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Pierre NORA, Between Memory and


History: Les Lieux de Mmoire, Representations, no. 26, 1989, p. 9. Apud ibidem, p. 236.
9
Maurice HALBWACHS, The Collective
Memory, Harper&Row, New York, 1980, p. 48.
Apud ibidem, p. 236.
10
Lewis A. COSER, Maurice Halbwachs:
On Collective Memory, The University of
Chicago Press, Chicago&London, 1992, p. 22.
Apud ibidem, p. 236

764

RECENSIONES

la capacit denvisager par l labsolu,


tandis que lhistoire se lie aux continuits
temporelles, aux progressions et aux relations entre les choses, arrivant ainsi percevoir uniquement le relatif11. Finalement, la
mmoire personnelle, partage, et lhistoire
narrative interagissent dune manire trs
complique, sinfluenant rciproquement
au fur et mesure que de diffrentes
versions du pass sont construites et
reconstruites12 pour aboutir au concept de
mmoire collecte de James Young qui
indique lexistence de plusieurs mmoires
diffrentes et discrtes regroupes dans des
espaces mmoriaux communs qui reoivent
une signification commune. La mmoire
dune socit est lagrgat des mmoires
multiples et souvent concurrentes de ses
membres13. Pour pouvoir se manifester
dans les sphres publiques et prives, la
mmoire et lhistoire ont besoin des formes
physiques, visuelles et verbales et les monuments publics jouent exactement ce rle.
De surcroit, la construction des monuments dans lespace public est identifie, au
rituel de lgitimation du pouvoir de tel que
le suggre Alina erban dans Le destin du
monument public: clbration, abandon et
iconoclasme politique. Dans cette logique,
lespace public devient un point central
dintrt sur lagenda politique et un sujet
de controverse politique et idologique
justement parce quil porte vivantes les
traces du passage dans le temps et il
garde les traces visuelles des discours
politiques. Or, le rseau urbain est lespace
de la pntration de lesthtique par le
politique dans le but de la propagation
et de la lgitimation dune vision sociale
propre. Le rituel fonctionne comme forme

11

Pierre NORA, Between Memory and


Historycit., Apud ibidem , p. 236.
12
Rubie S. WATSON, History and Opposition under State Socialism, School of American
Research Press, Santa Fe, 1994, p. 9. Apud
ibidem, p. 236.
13
James YOUNG, The Texture of Memory:
The Holocaust Memorials and Meaning, Yale
University Press, New Haven & London,
1993, p. xi. Apud ibidem, p. 235.

de lgitimation du nouvel ordre politique


supposant lassociation des images ce
pouvoir, fait qui dcoule de lattachement
motionnel des individus limage.
Analysant treize monuments publics
raliss entre 1848 et 1990, la perspective
du livre se penche notamment sur les
logiques internes de la construction des
reprsentations visuelles commandes.
Un point qui est soulev par rapport ces
monuments est quils sont lis une double
hypostase: dune part, visant limposition
et la rglementation dun nouveau systme
de gouvernement, de lautre, celle de
lannihilation, le refus et la delgitimation
des formes antrieures de gouvernement
(p. 256). Cela se passe dans la logique de
la construction dune nouvelle identit
politique et sociale et de la rinvention
de limaginaire politique. Cest le cas des
statues de Charles I et Ferdinand I dtruites
aprs 1948 ou des statues de Lnine, Staline
et Petru Groza ayant t dplaces vers des
espaces priphriques aprs 1989.
Dans la mme logique de linterprtation sinscrit la perspective souleve par
Katherine Verdery lorsquelle invoque le
processus dinvestissement de lespace,
par les diffrents rgimes politiques, avec
de nouvelles significations et valeurs par
le moyen de la modification des repres
spatiaux et temporaux dans le but de la
rordination du monde14. Cest ainsi quafin
de dessiner les contours du paysage,
articuler sa socialisation et linvestir avec de
valeurs spcifiques, les rgimes politiques,
de manire gnrale, construisent des
statues particulires quils remplacent
dans des endroits particuliers ou bien ils
renomment les rues, les places publiques et
les btiments15. Chaque rgime politique
fonde son autorit sur un iconoclasme politique, dfinissant diffrement la dcomposition et recomposition du matriel
visuel existant (p. 256).
Cest de cette manire que la fabrication
dune chronologie de lhistoire nationale
14
Katherine VERDERY, The Political Lives
of Dead Bodies, Colombia University Press,
New York, 1999, pp. 39-40.
15
Ibidem.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

RECENSIONES

dans le contexte des conditionnements idologiques est mise en scne. Dici est souleve
la nature rptitive de la production du
monument public dans le but du maintien
dans lespace public dune cohrence du
message des visions politiques. Fait valable
en mme temps tant pour le communisme,
que pour le postcommunisme, vu quon
assiste en Europe Centrale et Orientale
une guerre des monuments dans le cadre de
laquelle le patrimoine existant est annihil,
les monuments dysfonctionnels et inappropris la vision politique des dtenteurs
du pouvoir sont dtruits (p. 258).
Dans le contexte communiste, lespace
urbain est la plateforme de proclamation de
lagenda socialiste et le rle du monument
public est dimprgner cet espace de significations. Au-del de la priode historique
o diffrents changements sont oprs par
rapport au rgime urbanistique, llment
qui est relev tout au long du livre dAnca
Benera porte sur limportance de la
scnographie de lespace urbain et sur la
reconqute de cet espace (pp. 264-265) ainsi
que la mise en question de lvolution du
paysage urbanistique postcommuniste.
Lespace urbain postcommuniste est,
quant lui, de tel que lexplique Duncan
Light dans son tude (Les monuments
abandonns et les vestiges du paysage
socialiste: Le Mausole communiste de
Bucarest), imprgn par les demeures de
paysages16, monuments et constructions
dun hritage matriel appartenant un
autre pass qui se retrouvent dans un
tat intermdiaire et qui, ayant survcu
lobjectif initial de leur cration, attendent
dtre rappropries dans dautres buts
par le nouveau rgime politique instaur
aprs 1989. ce point-ci, la perspective
de Mark Crinson peut complter le
tableau car, sous langle de la persistance

16
Mariusz CZEPCZYNSKI, Cultural Landscapes of Post-Socialist Cities: Representations of
Power and Needs, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2008,
p. 109. Apud Duncan LIGHT, Monumente
abandonate i rmie ale peisajului socialist: Mausoleul comunist din Bucureti,
pp. 271-288/p. 273.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

765
dans lespace urbain des reprsentations
visuelles travers le temps, pour lauteur
anglais, la ville devient la fois un paysage
physique et une collection dobjets et
de pratiques qui incarnent le pass par
lintermdiaire des traces quil garde de
la construction et reconstruction urbaine
squentielle17. Crinson enregistre dailleurs
un changement au niveau de la fonction et
de lutilisation du monument dans lespace
urbain au moment o, ayant quitt la
fonction commmorative de larchitecture,
le monument devient une trace ou un
fragment, dpositaires de la mmoire18.
Une recration de lespace urbain
est mise en place travers un processus
de purification de lespace qui suppose
lenlvement, la rednomination, le rengagement et la rutilisation. Nanmoins, lespace
public postcommuniste peut tre apprhend
comme un lieu des prsences absentes19
puisque au niveau du tissu physique
dtrior de la ville des espaces rsiduels de
lpoque communiste subsistent.
Finalement, lhistoire des monuments
telle quelle est recompose par le volume
Matire et histoire. Le monument public et
ses dystopies, permet une comprhension
des priorits sociales du pass et de la
manire de laquelle les dtenteurs du
pouvoir ont entendu au long du temps
modeler la socit. Le monument public est
apprhend en tant que partie composante
dun engrenage social clbr travers
un ensemble de ressorts sociaux comme
le sont la commmoration, la glorification
ou la destruction tout en mettant laccent
sur le rapport de forces qui se cre entre
lordre politique et lordre historique, entre
le discours et limage.
ELENA ARHIRE
17
Mark CRINSON, Urban Memory: History
and Amnesia in the Modern City, Routledge,
New York, 2005, p. xii.
18
Ibidem, pp. xvii-xviii.
19
Tim EDENSOR, Industrial Ruins: Space,
Aestethic and Materiality, Berg, Oxford, 2005,
p. 152. Apud Duncan LIGHT, Monumente
abandonatecit., p. 282.

766

RECENSIONES

CRISTIAN VASILE
Literatura i artele n Romnia comunist: 1948-1953
Humanitas, Seria Istorie contemporan, Bucureti, 2010, 335 pp.
Confruntarea cu trecutul totalitar
reprezint o tem predilect n spaiul
postcomunist, cunoaterea mecanismelor i
instituiilor din perioada comunist fiind un
punct de plecare n nelegerea prezentului
social, politic, cultural. n prefaa crii,
Despre o reuit istoriografic, scris
cu pasiune, rigoare, curaj i sagacitate,
Vladimir Tismneanu scrie c marxismul
s-a vrut o nou antropologie, un efort de
recldire a condiiei umane, ceea ce fcea
din spaiul valorilor estetice unul al luptei
acerbe pentru monopolul exercitat de ceea
ce Czeslaw Milosz a numit Noua Credin
(p.12). Astfel, Literatura i artele n Romnia
comunist: 1948-1953 este rezultatul unei
cercetri academice care se concentreaz
asupra domeniilor creativ-artistice precum
dramaturgia, cinematografia, beletristica,
operele muzicale sau artele plastice n
timpul perioadei staliniste. Lucrarea este
mprit n apte capitole principale
(fiecare fiind dedicat unui sector artistic
sau organizrii instituionale) la care se
adaug introducerea i ncheierea, precum
i un rezumat n limba englez. Relaiile
dintre creator/artist i conducerea statului,
reglementrile domeniilor artistice i
culturale, evoluia artei spre statutul su
de instrument ideologic sunt surprinse
i prezentate ntr-o manier clar i verosimil unui public familiarizat cu studiul
comunismului.
Sursele principale ale cercetrii sunt
reprezentate de documente de arhiv, att
din Arhivele Consiliului Naional pentru
Studierea Arhivelor Securitii sau din
Arhiva Institutului Cultural Romn ct i
din Arhivele Naionale Istorice Centrale
(fonduri ale CC al PCR innd de Cancelarie
i de Secia de Propagand i Agitaie) sau
din Arhivele Naionale ale Statelor Unite
ale Americii. De asemenea, n bibliografia
lucrrii se regsesc articole cu caracter
ideologic i propagandistic, studii teoretice i
lucrri de referin pentru spaiul romnesc

sau est-european (printre autorii acestora


regsindu-se Mioara Anton, Sorin Antohi,
Dan Berindei, Magda Crneci, Eugen Denize,
Viorel Domenico, Gheorghe Grigurcu,
Ana Selejan, Vladimir Tismneanu, Pavel
ugui i Alain Besanon, Igor Golomostock,
Vladimir Shlapentokh, Katherine Verdery),
interviuri, memorii i jurnale ale artitilor
sau ziaritilor vremii (precum Lucia Sturdza
Bulandra sau Sorin Toma).
Primul capitol al crii, Ministerul
Artelor, Secia de Propagand i Agitaie
i ndrumarea culturii, contureaz o
perspectiv de ansamblu asupra organizrii
instituionale n domeniul culturii i asupra
modului n care conducerea comunist
s-a impus n funcionarea i activitatea
organismelor culturale. Pentru a putea
exercita un control deplin asupra artelor,
PCR a fost nevoit s reorganizeze Ministerul
Propagandei (redenumit Ministerul Informaiilor), sporindu-i atribuiile prin nfiinarea unor noi direcii precum Direcia
Radio sau Direcia relaiilor culturale cu
strintatea i, ulterior, prin fuzionarea
cu Ministerul Artelor. Nu doar structura
instituional a domeniului artistic i
cultural a fost inta modificrilor n prima
perioad a comunismului romnesc ci
i conducerea acestuia astfel, pentru
a nltura personaje neagreate (precum
social-democraii Ion Pas i tefan Tita),
PCR a ntreprins campanii de delaiuni
pentru a crea contextul favorabil numirii
n funcie a fidelilor partidului, cum
este cazul lui Octav Livezeanu sau al lui
Eduard Mezincescu. ns rolul major n
crearea politicilor culturale n perioada
1948-1953 nu l-a avut Ministerul Artelor
ci Direcia de Propagand i Agitaie a CC
al PMR, aceasta funcionnd pe baza unor
Planuri de Munc pentru Literatur i
Art sau pentru Pres, avnd astfel funcie
de instan decizional, de selecionare a
cadrelor i de realizare a directivelor pentru
ndrumarea cultural. Numeroasele
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

RECENSIONES

reorganizri i redenumiri ale instituiilor


culturale, epurarea asociaiilor artitilor
i scriitorilor ori nfiinarea uniunilor de
creaie au avut toate drept scop aezarea
vieii spirituale pe temeiul ideologiei
materialist-dialectice (p. 48).
Literatura realismului socialist este
cel de-al doilea capitol al crii, concentrndu-se asupra temelor literare preferate
de regim, asupra metodelor de manipulare
a scriitorilor (devenii instrumente de
propagare a ideologiei comuniste), asupra
cenzurii i a apariiei cenaclurilor ori a
Uniunii Scriitorilor. Intelectualii prin
excelen (p. 71), cum erau considerai n
epoc scriitorii, au fost un actor important
n logica regimului. Astfel, n timp ce
reacionarii au fcut obiectul represiunilor
economice i politice, cei care foloseau
condeiul n favoarea Partidului beneficiau
de un statut privilegiat att din punct de
vedere social ct i material. Controlul
informaiilor difuzate public a reprezentat
un element-cheie ntre 1948 i 1953, tiprirea
articolelor, operelor literare sau a brourilor
fiind realizat doar cu acordul Partidului.
Linia realismului socialist, unica metod
de creaie (p. 80) era supravegheat i
prin intermediul Uniunii Scriitorilor din
RPR (nfiinat n martie 1949), cea care
administra i Fondul Literar al Scriitorilor.
Pentru a prezenta Omul Nou, alte direcii
tematice au fost impuse scriitorilor, acetia
fiind nevoii s scrie despre munca n
fabrici ori n gospodriile agricole colective,
textul literar avnd rol educativ pentru
proletariatul rii. Calitatea scriiturii era
ndoielnic iar critica literar i pierduse
funcia constructiv; merit totui notat
faptul c pentru a sugera o anumit
continuitate i pentru a atrage publicul
cititor au fost reeditai clasici ai literaturii
precum Eminescu sau Caragiale.
Viziunea i controlul comunist n
domeniul dramaturgiei reprezint subiectul celui de-al treilea capitol, Teatrul n
primii ani de regim comunist. Asemntor transformrilor n domeniul literaturii, teatrul este i el supus cenzurii i
impunerii unor noi teme, agreate de regim.
Politizarea vieii teatrale (p. 108) s-a
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

767
realizat att prin revizuirea repertoriilor ct
i prin reformarea nvmntului superior
teatral, una dintre msurile importante
fiind desprinderea de Conservatorul de
Muzic i crearea Institutului de Teatru
n anul 1948. n aceeai perioad au fost
organizate multiple conferine cu teme
ideologice ori de teorie a artei dramatice
menite s reeduce publicul i s construiasc
gustul pentru teatrul realist-socialist (fie
prin piese sovietice, fie prin lucrri ale
dramaturgilor romni). n plus, numrul
slilor de teatru a crescut considerabil i
a fost nfiinat Teatrul Poporului pentru
a atrage categoriile sociale neburgheze.
Printre dramaturgii recuperai de regim
se numr Caragiale (opera sa fiind reinterpretat ca atac la adresa burgheziei), Camil
Petrescu i Victor Eftimiu. Actorii erau
adesea angajai politic, fiind nevoii s
participe la edine de partid sau s joace
roluri umilitoare n piese care proslveau
realizrile aduse de comunism (p. 129).
Artele plastice au constituit un bun
suport pentru crearea i difuzarea mesajelor ideologice n perioada 1948-1953,
capitolul Artele plastice n timpul stalinismului integral fiind dedicat legilor privitoare la comenzile de stat, la critica artistic
(aproape inexistent sau, n orice caz,
incoerent) i la condiiile materiale ale
artitilor, de acum reunii sub ndrumarea
Uniunii Artitilor Plastici. Imediat dup
perioada de tranziie (1944-1947) n timpul
creia au aprut diferite micri artistice
precum neotradiionalismul, avangardismul sau existenialismul , propaganda
vizual a fost realizat n special de pictori
precum M.H. Maxy sau Jules Perahim
care mbrieaz arta cu vederi sociale
(p. 131), de esen jdanovist. Subiectele
preferate n sculptura i pictura epocii
sunt, din nou, omul muncii, fabrica i
gospodria spre exemplu, Grivia Roie a
lui Dorio Lazr sau Miner al lui Ion Jalea.
Regimul utilitii publice determin (a se
citi oblig) colecionarii de art s pun
la dispoziia publicului numeroase i
valoroase opere de art, aa cum este cazul
coleciei de art plastic a Ortansei Satmary
sau a lui Krikor H. Zambaccian. Folosind

768
metode asemntoare atragerii scriitorilor
de partea regimului, Partidul a acordat
avantaje materiale i sociale (intrarea n
Academia RPR, locuine decente, achiziii
de stat) celor care au acceptat noua ordine
artistic, dintre care i menionez pe Camil
Ressu, pe Iosif Iser i pe Jean Al. Steriadi.
n plus, asemenea Fondului Literar, Fondul
Plastic avea drept rol asigurarea posibilitilor materiale pentru creaia artistic,
impunnd n acelai timp direcia tematic,
artitii realiznd o producie pe linie, fr
valoare (p. 150). Viziunea comunist s-a
concentrat asupra uitrii trecutului, mai
multe monumente din perioada vechiului
regim fiind distruse, fie c vorbim de
statuia lui Carol I din Piaa Palatului Regal
ori de Palatul tirbey de la Buftea.
Cercetarea istoricului Cristian Vasile a
atins i cazul operelor muzicale, capitolul
Creaia muzical sfritul diversitii i
impunerea controlului ideologic reprezentnd un demers academic inovativ,
muzica fiind prea puin analizat n sfera
studiilor legate de arta n comunism.
Folclorul a reprezentat o direcie esenial
n perioada comunist, asociaiile folclorice
sau de jocuri populare fiind transformate
n micri muzicale steti. Au fost
nfiinate coruri i fanfare controlate politic n ntreaga ar iar doinele populare
tradiionale au fost interzise deoarece
aveau coninut naionalist-ovin i
incitau la ur interetnic (p. 177).
Colindele i cntecele de stea au jucat un
rol major realizarea scopurilor ideologice
ale PCR (orict de paradoxal ar putea
prea), ntruct au un neles economic i
spiritual pentru poporul romn. Astfel,
muzica religioas nu a fost scoas n
afara legii ci a fost cenzurat i adaptat
nevoilor politice. n plus, muzica uoar
era considerat decadent i Ministerul
Artelor i Informaiilor a luat msuri
pentru a marginaliza tangoul sau valsulboston, ritmul acestora fiind nepotrivit,
nesntos. Regimul miza pe lucrul
colectiv, pe nlturarea individualismului
de aceea, urmnd modelul altor uniuni,
Uniunea Compozitorilor din RPR (octombrie
1949) a fost creat pentru a supraveghea

RECENSIONES

producia muzical n vederea cerinelor


elaborate la nivelul organismelor ideologice, Fondul Muzical avnd funcia de a
asigura condiiile favorabile creaiei (prin
mprumuturi, achiziii ori comenzi).
Propaganda a avut drept aliat principal filmul, iat de ce al aselea capitol
al lucrrii, Cinematografia arta cea
mai important, trateaz modul n care
producia cinematografic a fost utilizat
n scopuri electorale, planificarea i
difuzarea filmelor precum i nfiinarea
unor instituii menite s vegheze acest
sector artistic (spre exemplu, Comitetul
pentru Cinematografie). Amintind de fraza
lui Lenin (regsit i n titlul capitolului),
filmul a fost puternic exploatat din punct de
vedere ideologic, att n campanii electorale
(prin caravane cinematografice) ct i de
uniformizare a publicului. Reorganizare,
centralizare i etatizare erau termeni
la ordinea zilei atunci cnd se abordau
problemele cinematografiei din punct de
vedere instituional (p. 218). ncepnd cu
noiembrie 1948, industria cinematografic
a fost naionalizat. Prin urmare, s-au
multiplicat atribuiile i puterile societii
mixte romno-sovietice, Sovromfilm (constituit n 1946 ca element al rusificrii culturii).
Subiectele filmelor combteau mentalitatea
mic-burghez,
subliniind
binefacerile
regimului i prietenia cu URSS. Un punct
esenial al capitolului l reprezint utilizarea
filmului n concuren cu religia, atenia
public fiind deplasat dinspre srbtorile
religioase (Crciun ori Pati) spre aniversarea
Zilei Muncii ori a proclamrii Republicii.
Filmul a fost supus planificrii, cenzurii i
ndoctrinrii populaiei, poate chiar mai
mult dect celelalte arte.
Ultimul capitol al crii, nvmntul
romnesc n epoca stalinist, prezint
organizarea nvmntului artistic pentru
a servi intereselor regimului comunist. n
vederea democratizrii nvmntului
au fost create comitete de elevi care promovau activitatea cercurilor marxiste i
care controlau materialele tiprite din
coli pentru a fi conforme normelor PCR.
Lupta mpotriva analfabetismului a fcut
parte dintr-o campanie de control social
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

769

RECENSIONES

i ideologic. Naionalizarea colilor a avut


loc o dat cu noua lege a nvmntului,
n luna august 1948, printre obiective figurnd educarea tinerilor n spirit comunist
ori constituirea unei pturi de cadre.
Urmnd linia sovietic, limbile strine i
sociologia sunt nlocuite de socialismul
tiinific i de marxism-leninism. Pentru
a exemplifica, Cristian Vasile dedic seciuni ale capitolului unor cazuri din
nvmntul filologic (precum nfiinarea
colii de Literatur i Critic Literar
Mihai Eminescu), artistic (spre exemplu,
reorganizarea colilor de Arte Frumoase)
ori muzical (profesorii indezirabili regimului fiind epurai).
Literatura i artele n Romnia comunist:
1948-1953 este o sintez descriptiv a
evoluiei domeniilor artistice n timpul
perioadei staliniste. Este o lucrare istoric
recent (autorul putnd studia documentele
respective numai n urma deschiderii
arhivelor PCR) care se concentreaz pe

modul n care arta/cultura a fost impus


de sus n jos n cele mai importante sectoare
artistice: literatura, teatrul, artele plastice,
creaia muzical, filmul. De altfel, unul
dintre obiectivele enunate de ctre istoricul
Cristian Vasile este demonstrarea modului
n care noul tip de cultur a reprezentat
punerea n scen a ideologiei jdanoviste,
contrar discursului oficial din perioada
comunist. Cartea de fa este rezultatul
unei cercetri detaliate i sistematizate
n care accentul este pus pe viziunea i
pe aciunile interne ale instituiilor de
stat n sfera culturii i care (probabil) va
reprezenta baza unor studii ulterioare.
Demersul cercettorului poate fi astfel
mbogit prin analizarea unor teme care
nu au fost dezvoltate n mod particular n
cadrul lucrrii: colaborarea cultural cu alte
state i perspectiva artitilor pui n situaia
de a alege ntre partizanat i dizgraie.
RALUCA PETRE-ANDOR

IOANA MACREA-TOMA
Privileghenia: Instituii literare n comunismul romnesc
Casa Crii de tiin, Cluj-Napoca, 2009, 364 pp.
Dac a gndi liber devine predicatul
verbal al democraiei, scriitorul romn n
vremea comunismului apare ntr-o arie de
clarobscur dup 1990, cu diverse fluctuaii
ntre tonurile de rezisten, compromis ori
trdare. Investigaiile din ultimii ani au
revelat adevruri culturale privind receptarea i ncadrarea literaturii sub comunism n raport cu etica regimului. Astfel,
coabitarea paradoxal a ingenuitii literare i a subordonrii politice n comunism
reprezint un subiect complex pentru dezbaterile contradictorii focalizate pe relaia
dintre cultur, public, pia i politic.
Sociolog i om de litere, Ioana MacreaToma propune ateniei publicului un studiu
remarcabil al spaiului cultural romnesc
de pn n 1989, studiu ce a reprezentat
subiectul lucrrii de doctorat susinut
n decembrie 2008, n cadrul Facultii
de Litere din Cluj. ntr-o perspectiv
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

deconstructivist calificat, autoarea scaneaz excepionalitatea comunismului


prin prisma condiiei scriitorului romn
i a fantasmei victimizrii manifestat
de acesta sub regimul totalitar, lansnd o
gref a ceea ce se poate numi relaie complex dintre art i politic n modelul
cultural i cmpul social al regimului.
Adoptnd o abordare att sociologic,
ct i a literatului, studiul autoarei este o
contribuie la literatura privind politica
memoriei n Romnia comunist, prin
prisma examinrii retroactive a trecutului
i a transformrilor structurilor literare sub
semnul condiionrilor sociale.
Dac pn n anii 80 cultura i artele
erau incontestabil o responsabilitate public
ce trebuia s fie finanat doar de guvern, n
anii 90 filozofia politicii culturale a suferit
transformri majore, spre un model i un
discurs neoliberal. Dezbaterile au generat

770
distincia clar ntre valoare intrinsec i
valoarea instrumental a artei1.
Demersul sociologic i teoretic al
autoarei este construit pe o impresionant
cercetare de arhiv, mbinat cu tehnica
investigrii istoriei orale i metoda interviului semi-structurat. Analiza de surse
inedite, precum documentele din arhiva
Uniunii Scriitorilor i a postului de
radio Europa Liber, concretizeaz
efortul autoarei de a ntregi n cartea
sa o sintez nuanat despre instituia
literar n comunism. Intenia autoarei
este de a ncadra dihotomia cmp politiccmp literar n problematica incriminrii
comunismului, care de altfel este supus
unui deficit de expunere mai degrab
dect unui deficit de adevr. Pornind de
la premisa c aceast dihotomie trebuie
perceput ca o ncercare de relaionare a
unor spaii aflate n conflict, dar i ntr-o
condiionare reciproc, discursul Ioanei
Macrea-Toma se circumscrie n efortul de
ndreptare a viziunilor reducioniste de
dup 1990 n privina dispoziiei literaturii
sau literaturilor n perioada comunist. n
acest sens titlul este explicit: Privileghenia.
Autoarea plaseaz cu o atenie desvrit
discursul centrat pe literatur n contextul
dilemelor i controverselor nscute din convulsiunile proceselor intelectuale de dup
1989, cartea sa contribuind la elucidarea
statutului privilegiilor i la formarea lor
n contextul scriitor-cenzur, literaturideologie, rezisten-evaziune.
Tablouri istorice i imagini epicomorale ale societii romneti ncepnd
cu anii 90 sunt prezentate, nu pentru a
descrie perioada totalitar, ci pentru a
impune o manier n care noi toi ar trebui
s ne amintim de comunism. Daniel Barbu
observ meticulos c aceast interpretare
a istoriei totalitare romneti vrea i o

1
Dan-Eugen RAIU, tat et culture
en Roumanie postcommuniste: concepts,
justifications et effets de la politique
culturelle, in Silvia MARTON, Anca
OROVEANU, Florin URCANU (dir.), Ltat
en France et en Roumanie aux XIXe et XXe sicles,
New Europe College, Bucureti, 2010, p. 320.

RECENSIONES

face cu intenie s ne fac s uitm c nu


toi romnii au fost victime i c nu toi
romnii au rezistat2. Acesta identific n
studiile sale patru mari tipuri de atitudini
publice ale generaiilor care au trit n
Romnia comunist: rezistena, supunerea
pasiv, supunerea activ i participarea.
Ioana Macrea-Toma se oprete astfel n faa
problematicii culturale, care este organizat
n jurul puterii i st la baza manifestrilor
sociale.
Primul capitol al crii Ioanei MacreaToma, Instituionalizarea scriitorilor n
comunism. Premise ideologice i consecine
profesionale, trateaz reconstrucia cadrului instituional al scriitorilor n comunism
i funcionarea evolutiv a spaiului literar
prin prezentarea spectrului de implicaii
aferente meseriei de scriitor. Aflm astfel
c producerea operelor i recunoaterea
identitilor culturale sunt condiionate de
recunoaterea de breasl, principiu care st
la baza distribuiei gratificaiilor. Autoarea
analizeaz metoda formrii privilegiilor,
recunoscnd o relaie solidificat ntre
circuitul publicistic, notorietatea i integrarea
ntr-o societate de breasl. Plasarea scriitorilor
n cadrul unei structuri instituional-ierarhice
este direct proporional cu harta piramidal a distribuiei gratificaiilor simbolice
(p. 332).
Autoarea delimiteaz clar contextul
metamorfozelor structural-politice i consideraiile estetice care determinau clasificarea
obsesiv a mai multor generaii: aizeciti,
aptezeciti, optzeciti. Dei criticii anilor
80 enunau faptul c ceea ce prevala
era explicaia conform creia lua natere
un nou spirit literar, un postmodernism
autohton, criteriile economice ocupnd
un plan secund. Studiul Ioanei MacreaToma demonstreaz contrariul, elementul
economic avnd o putere decisiv n atribuirea privilegiilor, promovarea i publicarea optzecitilor. Cartea cuprinde tabele
2
Daniel BARBU, Pesimismul luminat
sau despre posibilitatea gndirii de stnga,
prefa la studiul lui Norberto BOBBIO,
Liberalism i democraie, trad. de Ana-Luana
Stoicea, Nemira, Bucureti, 2007, p. 12.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

RECENSIONES

concludente pentru spaiul publicistic,


explicitnd ponderea profiturilor literare n
funcie de perioad i generaie, precum i
date privind remuneraia colaboratorilor i
plata textelor. Se ridic problema disjunciei
autentic-inautentic, a discordanelor ntre
onorariile cerute de presa cultural pe
ar. Revistele literare devin o logic a
producerii de cultur, singurele ns care
nu nregistrau pierderi bugetare fiind
publicaiile de la centru, Romnia literar
i Secolul XX. Autoarea plaseaz generaia
aizecitilor ca fiind pltit cel mai bine; de
altfel, n aceast perioad s-a concretizat
n mod evident ceea ce nainte era doar
enunarea contradictorie a relaiei dintre
bani, funcii n organizaiile de breasl
i literatur. Tot n aceast perioad s-au
materializat modalitile de distribuie a
premiilor literare i gratificaiilor, raportate
ns la funciile din Uniunea Scriitorilor.
Capitolul al doilea, A scrie pentru a
publica. Regimul publicaiilor n Romnia
comunist, continu expunerea regimului
publicistic n comunism, dar propune
focalizarea asupra filialelor de producie i
difuzare a operelor literare. Ioana MacreaToma constat supradimensionarea comunitar a literaturii i a rolului scriitorului
(p. 162), iar documentele de arhiv ne
arat condiiile de publicabilitate i harta
instituional a distribuiei fondurilor i
a subordonrii ideologice n domeniul
produciei de carte (p. 171). Poziionarea
scriitorilor n cmpul publicistic este
condiionat de integrarea normelor, a
cadrului i dinamicii, ceea ce determin
ulterior aa-zisa carier literar n comunism.
Autoarea identific tonalitatea obsesiv
a regimului de uniformizare a gusturilor
literare prin stimularea tendinelor nspre
producii serializabile. Sub radiaia canonului ideologic stalinist, diversificarea este
nlocuit de serializarea operelor deja
existente (p. 164). Astfel, scriitorul devine
client al statului i al instituiei literare de
care aparine, iar editurile i bibliotecile se
afl astfel n postura de a asigura cadrul de
producie i absorbie al operelor.
Un aspect important ce domin spaiul cultural comunist nc din anii 50
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

771
este reprezentat de problematica traducerilor coleciilor de autori sovietici, fiind
manifestat precum o exaltare reverenioas a patrimoniului cultural al rii
mam i de rensmnare a gustului pentru
literatura realist (p. 167). Mai mult, a fost
importat modelul sovietic al imixturii
brutale a Puterii pe teritoriul artei (p. 5),
ceea ce a antrenat o criz realmente grav
n literatura romneasc de dup 1945,
cauzat de agresiunea politic ce suprim
autonomia esteticului.
Autoarea prezint felul n care statutul scriitorului este modificat de noile
politici editoriale ncepnd cu 1968, chiar
dac practica urmeaz raiuni bazate pe
principiul de alocare difereniat. Msurile
de descentralizare editorial i unional
din epoca de maxim liberalizare nu sunt
bine percepute de ctre deintorii de
capital puternic, ntruct asistm din ce n
ce mai mult la internalizarea dependenei
prestigiului de structura piramidal a
cmpului publicistic.
Dei se dorete ca anii 1960 i 1970 s
reprezinte momente de experimentare i
deschidere spre arta occidental, n spatele
acestui context general de liberalizare, se
poate constata o direcie constant spre
aprecierea artei tradiionale romneti n
detrimentul curentelor internaionale3.
Motivaiile sunt relativ simple: cultura i
naiunea nu sunt realiti distincte i concepte limitrofe, ci mai degrab corelative
i co-substaniale; Specificul naional
confer artei o culoare local, un ton local
[...] Prin art naional, neleg o form
cultural specific, original i aceasta
poate fi definit prin stil, printr-o relativ
unitate a formelor i a spiritului care le
patroneaz4. n acest sens, criticul de art
Magda Crneci explic anul 1968 ca un

3
Alice MOCNESCU, National Art as
Legitimate Art: National between Tradition and
Ideology in Ceausescus Romania, p. 7, disponibil online la adresa http://users.ox.ac.
uk/~oaces/conference/papers/Alice_Mocanescu.pdf, accesat la data de 27.10.2011.
4
Anatol MNDRESCU, Art naional
i stil, Contemporanul, 8 iunie 1968.

772

RECENSIONES

moment culminant pentru micarea care


respinge tendinele experimentale, micare
pe care aceasta o consider fiind fractura
dintre generaia tnr i restul comunitii
artistice5.
Capitolele al treilea i al patrulea,
Cenzura ca instituie: Organisme i tabuuri i respectiv A trece de cenzur, se
axeaz pe studierea mecanismelor represive
ale sistemului de publicaii, autoarea identificnd cenzura ca instituie (p. 190).
Studiul arat c cenzura este parte esenial a proiectului ideologic comunist.
Analiznd funcionarea sa real, att la nivel
perceptiv, ct i la nivel de aciune, autoarea
demonstreaz
specificitatea
cenzurii
totalitare ca tentativ de iradiere a trecutului
i de control cognitiv global (p. 335). n
anii 70, scriitorii deplng din ce n ce mai
mult starea literaturii, asistnd ulterior la
dizolvarea instituional a cenzurii n 1977,
aceasta fiind ns urmat de o internalizare
a regulilor i de integrare instituional
(p. 212). Anticiparea desfiinrii cenzurii face
subiectul aprecierilor redactorilor Europei
Libere, precum i a scriitorilor ca Nicolae
Breban, care observ umilinele de ordin
ideologic i ierarhic-arbitrare (p. 226)
adresate literaturii romneti. Acest moment
coincide cu politica de descentralizare
nceput n 1968 i cu schimbrile ce survin
n Romnia comunist, n urma vizitei
lui Ceauescu n China ce marcheaz
debutul intervenionismului colectiv cu iz
naionalist (p. 217). Condiiile de publicare
nu au suferit o liberalizare a accesului
la spaiul editorial, ci au demonstrat cu
aceast ocazie c subordonarea literaturii
n comunism presupunea o problematic
complex. Cenzura nu reprezenta numai
un obstacol n estetic, ci se comporta ca un
reactor stilistic, deoarece avea o contribuie
considerabil la promovarea ideilor ct mai
generale i la conturarea culorilor eroice a
mitologiei fondatoare a partidului (p. 234).
Autoarea pune n discuie problematica
obsesiei publicrii cu orice pre, ca urmare
a sistemului de remunerare, chiar cu riscul

Magda CRNECI, Artele plastice n


Romnia, 1945-1989, Meridiane, Bucureti,
2000, p. 96.

de a fi numii ulterior scriitori politici.


n timp ce anumii scriitori au ales aceast
cale, alii au preferat disidena, refuzul sau
samizdatul (p. 276), confruntndu-se astfel
cu repercusiuni i consecine severe. Totul
se rezum n final la o alegere personal
asumat.
Ultimul capitol, De la context la text.
Complexe intelocentrice, este dedicat
extrapolrii noiunii de rezisten, fie
ea a culturii sau fie fa de percepiile i
normele regimului. Scopul acestei expuneri
se muleaz pe nevoia restabilir[ii] originii
ideii de obsedant deceniu. Cele dou studii
de caz propuse de Ioana Macrea-Toma, i
anume valorificarea motenirii culturale
i literatura despre obsedantul deceniu,
reliefeaz pe de o parte, implicaiile culturale
ale beligeranei mpotriva politicului
raportate la restaurarea legturilor cu
tradiia i trecutul apropiat i, pe de alt
parte, mizele intra-literare ale unor
scrieri ndreptate mpotriva stalinismului
(p. 288). Descoperim astfel c literatura
acestui obsedant deceniu incorporeaz operele aizecitilor concentrate cu precdere
pe tematici predilecte perioadei comuniste, precum colectivizarea, activitatea de
partid, teroarea din nchisori etc. Ion Simu
observ logica caracteristic acestor creaii
literare, i anume: obsesia dreptii, negativismul, retorica adevrului6, raportate la
experienele cu ramificaiile tentaculare ale
istoriei.
Societile democratice de astzi sunt
construite pe contientizarea trecutului,
pe memoria colectiv i pe istoria lucid.
Efortul Ioanei Macrea-Toma de a recupera
o parte a trecutului apropiat se ncadreaz
n logica asumrii contiente a motenirii
noastre totalitare. Este nevoie totui de o
abordare prin prisma continuitii a acestor
uniuni i asociaii de creaie totalmente
dependente de stat, supuse Partidului
Comunist, care generau transformarea
artitilor n: de stat, oficiali, angajai
sau pasivi7. Lucia Dragomir a realizat un

6
Ion SIMU, Incursiune n literatura
actual, Editura Cogito, Oradea, 1994, p. 65.
7
Magda CRNECI, Artele plastice ...cit,
pp. 181-183.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

RECENSIONES

studiu bine structurat asupra examinrii


laturii funcionaliste a acestor organisme
de creaie, precum i relaiile de colaborare
ntre uniuni8. Creat n scopul de uniformizare a funciilor ideologice i control n
rile comuniste din Europa Central i
Oriental, Uniunea Scriitorilor devine
o instituie literar monopolistic i un
mediator ntre instanele puterii i cele
literare scriitorii. Este aadar un subiect
ce furnizeaz material productiv pentru
investigaiile asupra semnificaiei blocului
sovietic, n general i asupra statutului
scriitorului i condiiilor artistice n dictaturile comuniste, n particular.
Acest intervenionism i sistem protecionist imaginat de stat poate s provoace
distorsiuni i polemici virulente n cadrul
cultural i artistic democratic, i cu att mai
mult n cele totalitare, animate fiind de un
joc al manipulrii i al cenzurii. n acest
context rmne deschis discuia despre
problema pe care Radu Cosau o formuleaz: S scrii sub cenzur sau contra
cenzurii9. Lecia pe care Ioana MacreaToma o propune este importana vital a
nelegerii relaiei dintre instituii culturale
i ideologie, dintre spaiu publicistic i regimul de cenzur n vederea percepiei corecte
a esenei regimului comunist i a ncadrrii
justificate a scriitorilor i instituiilor literare
n prezentul trecutului recent10.
Procesul definirii artei i culturii naionale este intercorelat cu discursul ideologic
construit despre naiune. O viziune interesant i complex, prin prisma reperelor
cognitive, asupra identitii naionale i
culturii sub regimul ceauist este propus de
antropologul american Katherine Verdery11.
Discursul asupra artei naionale ca o

8
Lucia DRAGOMIR, LUnion des Ecrivains. Une institution transnationale lEst,
Belin, Paris, 2007.
9
Radu COSAU, Autodenunuri i precizri, Hasefer, Bucureti, 2001, p. 188.
10
Formularea aparine Laviniei Stan i face
subiectul crii acesteia, Prezentul trecutului
recent: lustraie i decomunizare n comunism,
Curtea Veche Publishing, Bucureti, 2010.
11
Katherine VERDERY, National Ideology
under Socialism. Identity and Cultural Politics in

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

773
tradiie a culturii romneti este contaminat
de ctre discursul politic, iar Verdery
explic rspunsul intelectualilor romni n
faa acestui expos naionalist. Axndu-se
pe analiza rezultatelor interconectivitii
dintre activitatea intelectual i puterea
politic, Verdery identific astfel construcia
i stabilizarea ideologiilor, cu sau fr
intenia direct manifestat a intelectualilor.
Activitatea acestora nu eman dintr-o
zon neutr a ideilor, ci este situat
n contextul social i politic al epocii,
devenind mai degrab un instrument al
conflictelor sociale, ordinii i intereselor.
Verdery consider c aspectele de identitate
incluse ntr-o politic a culturii coaguleaz
energii semnificative pentru ntrirea
ideologiei naionale12. Explicaia pe care
aceasta o gsete atribuirii privilegiilor,
tem abordat i de Ioana Macrea-Toma
n cartea sa, urmrete linia trasat de
Bourdieu cu privire la capitalul simbolic
ce concretizeaz ideea conform creia celor
care posed o parte mai mare din acest
capital le este recunoscut i acceptat
versiunea realitii lor13.
Identitatea unui popor i a unei
civilizaii, n termenii lui Milan Kundera14,
este concentrat n produsul gndirii, n
ceea ce numim cultur. Acesta prezint
un punct de vedere just cnd opineaz c
dac aceast identitate naional se afl
sub ameninarea extinciei, viaa cultural
se va dezvolta n mod corespunztor pn
cnd ea nsi va incarna valoarea esenial
n jurul creia toi oamenii vor gravita.
De aceea, memoria cultural colectiv i
eforturile creative din rile fostului bloc
sovietic nglobeaz resorturi civilizaionale
decisive
pentru
reperarea
etosului
restaurator al tradiiei i adevrului din
trecutul apropiat.
LIANA IONI

Ceauescus Romania, University of California


Press, Berkeley, 1991.
12
Ibidem, p. 4.
13
Ibidem, p. 18.
14
Milan KUNDERA, The Tragedy of
Central Europe, New York Review of Books,
vol. 31, no. 7, 26 April 1984, p. 2.

774

RECENSIONES

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

775

RECENSIONES

ABSTRACTS

CATERINA PREDA, Art and Politics in (Post)communism. The Transformation of Institutions


and Artistic Practices in Central and Eastern Europe.
Art and politics designates an eclectic subfield of political science. The article
starts by providing a theoretical framework for this heterogenous field (both
institutionally and as several disciplines converge). The relationship of politics and
the arts has been dealt with in various ways inside the institutional umbrellas of
international political science (APSA and ECPR). The approach of the study of the
art from a political perspective has been privileged by Marxist and post-Marxist
studies, as well as by the sociological school in Francophone studies. Secondly,
an overview of the analysis included in this special issue is provided. Several foci
are preferred and multiple case-studies are imagined. The subjects are classified
according to several categories: an institutional focus of the postcommunist
transformation (film and visual artists), the artistic discourses that discuss the
past and the continuous present, memory and its artistic questionings. Imagined
as an introduction to the study of art and politics in (post)communism, this
article attempts to stimulate a thorough debate on ways to study this complicated
relationship, as well as advances a theoretical outline.
Keywords: art and politics, postcommunism, theoretical overview.

SIMON PAUL BELL, Laibach and the NSK. Ludic Paradigms of Postcommunism.
A Slovene collective emerging in the wake of Titos death and shaped by the
break-up of Yugoslavia, the NSK (Neue Slowenische Kunst) are a performanceart movement founded in 1984 in Ljubljana, northern Slovenia. Together with
their most influential delivery system the group Laibach they examine Vaclav
Havels Post-Totalitarian Age, and operate as nexus between East and West in
the context of postcommunism. This article interrogates how with the employ
of relatively unique and wilfully provocative strategies of Retrogardism, remythologisation, and Over-identification, Laibach interrogate contexts of the
unfinished narrative of Communism, the aestheticized-political of totalitarianism,
and the legacy of Yugoslavian Self-management Socialism. Retrogardism has
been re-contextualised by cultural theorist Marina Grini as the new ism
from the East, and Slavoj iek champions Laibachs acts of disruptive Overidentification. Other diverse subjects such as ideological discourse, Suprematism,
Balkanisation and the wider notion of European identity, in particular Western
chauvinism, are all fertile ground for Laibachs controversial provocation and
are subject to analysis. The ludic presence of Laibach and the NSK reveals the
mechanisms of these discursive fields, whilst simultaneously appearing to reaffirm such, often to an alarming and disconcerting degree.
Keywords: Laibach, NSK, Slovenia, totalitarianism, postcommunism.
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

776

ABSTRACTS

AMY CHARLESWORTH, Warte Mal!. Construction and Consumption of Female


Subjectivity after the Velvet Revolution.
This paper revisits the politics of representation debates post-1989 in relation to
Ann-Sofi Sidns Warte Mal! Prostitution after the Velvet Revolution (1999). It seeks
to address the manner in which the political is thought through the aesthetic,
focusing specifically on the mediums of the video camera and the diary as research
tools in producing a reconfigured essayistic narrative. This device, I propose
seeks to understand an altered subjectivity, its production and consumption
in the transition from one socio-economic and political system to another. The
work shows a demand for a new type of critical cultural production in the face
of the ubiquity of the image in the 21st century and its power, when harnessed
by governmental or institutional restrictions, to render lived complexities as
static moments confined to narratives of victimization which divert attention
away from large-scale historical processes (the cultural, economic, political
and social components) that drive women to work in enslaved positions in
the sex industry. Boris Groys focus on the role of documentation as art and its
biopolitical contingencies in his work for Documenta 11 (2002) and his book Art
Power (2008) provides the theoretical underpinnings of the paper.
Keywords: The politics of representation, documentary, biopolitics, subjectivity,
essayistic narrative.

ANDREI POAM, Il tait une fois un pays. Propagande, pouvoir et tnbres dans
lUnderground dEmir Kusturica (1995) (There once was A Country. Propaganda,
Power and Darkness in Emir Kusturicas Underground [1995]).
This article retraces three levels of intelligibility of the communist adventure
of Titoism as they appear in Emir Kusturicas Underground (1995). Firstly, it
identifies the role played by propaganda inside the Yugoslav political regime.
Secondly, it examines the way the power relations having shaped the history
of the second Yugoslavia are pictured by Kusturicas film. Finally, it analyses
the organization of the fictitious space of Underground as a specific technique of
construction, that is, of modification of the identity of the inhabitants.
Keywords: postcommunism, propaganda, ubuesque power, total common
space, fiction.

MARINA ALINA ASAVEI, A Theoretical Excursus on the Concept of Political Art in


Communism and its Aftermath.
This paper confronts the conceptual meanings of political art in communist
regimes and liberal democracies. The label political art is in general used to
designate a wide variety of art productions, practices and art activities. What
is political in art? The answer is all the more disputed that politics itself is a
conflictive term. After the Second World War, opposition or support given to the
expansion of the capitalist/corporatist culture were expressed via a multitude
of ways of making art politically. In a liberal democracy, art is seen and used
as a tool to confront the antagonisms of reality. On the contrary, in totalitarian
regimes, making art politically means that art is seen and used both as a
weapon to distort reality in order to legitimate power and as a way of expressing
otherness (underground, dissident art from totalitarian regimes).
Keywords: political art, communist official art, political power, democracy,
opposition art.
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

ABSTRACTS

777

FLORENTINA ANDREESCU, The Changing Face of the Sacrificial Romanian Woman in


Cinematographic Discourses
Taking as a starting point one of the most relevant Romanian/Eastern European
myths, Craftsman Manole, the article examines the female ideal set forth by
Romanian filmography before and after 1989. During communism the female
ideal had two variants: heroine worker and heroine mother. In the films produced
after 1989, we identify a topic that, though not having changed its position
within the structure of fantasy, has lost its grip on female desire and consent. The
sacrifice performed by women now lacks its moral foundation and is portrayed
as an action performed at the behest of a selfish, obscene patriarchal interest. The
female sacrifice, performed without a moral justification, becomes a traumatic
event. The female ideal after the revolution has two versions: the traditional role
of the wife or daughter and the disaffiliated role of a prostitute.
Keywords: female ideal, transition, film, Lacan, Romania.

ELENA ARHIRE, Le Centre National de la Cinmatographie: articulations du postcommunisme


roumain (National Center of Cinematography: Articulations of Romanian Postcommunism).
Endorsing the perspective of democratization studies, this article examines the
postcommunism itinerary of the institutional infrastructure of Romanian cinematography. Special emphasis is given to the National Center of Cinematography
(NCC). as a privileged locus disclosing both the commerce between institutional
continuity and change, and the predicaments of cinematography, squeezed
between market and state control.

Keywords: cinema, National Center of Cinematography, postcommunism, Romania.

CRISTINA STOENESCU, Continuiti i contraste n spaiul artistic postcomunist romnesc


(Continuities and Contrasts in the Postcommunist Romanian Artistic Space).
The paper analyzes the institutional transformation of cultural policies in
postcommunist Romania and the correspondent emergence of an art market
in Romania. The case studies considered show that both artists and policy
makers adapted to extraneous expectations and patterns rather than promoting
new visions and models. The triangle metaphor forged by Magda Crneci,
representing the relationship between artists, the state and the Union of Visual
Artists (UAP), offers the basis for analysing the game of continuity and change
after the fall of Romanian communism.
Keywords: art market, postcommunism, cultural policies, Romania.

TIJEN TUNALI, The Politics of Roma Inclusion at the 52nd Venice Art Biennale.
At its 52nd edition, the Venice Biennale featured an ethnic collective: the Roma
Pavilion. This particular edition signified an important decision on the part of the
Biennials organizers in their willingness to incorporate Europes largest ethnic
minority into the body of an international blockbuster exhibition. By taking into
account the consequences of the collapse of communist regime in the Central
and Eastern European (CEE) countries, the enlargement of the EU and the effects
of neoliberal policies in the region, this article explores the ways in which the
politics of Roma Inclusion played out in this art exhibition. Considering the
project called the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015 that is supported by the
Open Society Institute and the World Bank, and endorsed by the prime ministers
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

778

ABSTRACTS

of eight CEE countries, this question is very timely: Did this particular place of
Roma art, sponsored by philanthropy in the corporate environment of a major
art institution, aim for negotiating the Romas particular political vocabulary
in need to be visible to the diverse Roma populations around Europe or was
this exhibition part of the institutional creativity aimed at the socio-political
integration of the former communist Europe into the global economic circuits?
Keywords: Roma Inclusion, representation, postcommunism, art biennial,
neoliberalism.

ZORAN POPOSKI, Spaces of Democracy: Art, Politics, and Artivism in the Post-socialist City.
In the countries of former Eastern Europe, the collapse of socialism and the
subsequent onset of neoliberal capitalism have resulted in a massive transfiguration
of urban public space at the hands of commercial interests. Examples include the
proliferation of outdoor advertising that destroys the character of natural and
historic urban landscapes, commercial events that restrict access to parks and
squares, the design of retail kiosks and storefronts in and around public spaces
that does not respect the local context sending a signal that it no longer represents
the local community. Instead of public space where people interact freely, without
the coercion of state institutions the productive, constantly remade, democratic
public space there is space for recreation and entertainment where access is
limited only to suitable members of the public: A controlled and orderly retreat
where a properly behaved public might experience the spectacle of the city
(Mitchell). Drawing on insights from major theorists of public space, this paper
explores the transformation of urban space in the post-socialist cities of Central
and Southeast Europe (Skopje), focusing on examples of creative reuse, artistic
conversion and social re-writing of the urban landscape in the face of massive
economic, political and social changes.
Keywords: public space, spatial practices, artivism, Macedonia.

ELENA GKARTZONIKA, Post-Cold War Trajectories of Memory and Oblivion in Bulgaria


and Kosovo.
The article offers a comparative analysis of two monumental constructions that
carry changes of both the Cold War and post-1990s Balkan state rhetoric. The
current state of both monuments highlight concrete and complex attitudes of
disseminating new versions of contemporary dilemmas, namely the mutations
of the once heroic Cold War national/socialist collective memory. Along with their
initial national symbolism and ideological usage in political discourse, we are
interested in investigating how political changes incorporate social crises, only to
become their echo. Bridging present/past attitudes, this deconstructive tautology
prevents social vigilance and, thus, democratization. Suffice is to mention two cases.
First, the slogan Forget your past was written recently between the Communist
Manifestos citation over the entrance of the ravaged monument on Buzludas
peak. Secondly, there are soldiers who are guarding the entrance of Gazimestan,
where the 14th c. Kosovo Curse is inscribed. Both case-studies illustrate contrasts
between memory and oblivion, empathy, pride or repression, all imposed on
emotional appeal along with a hegemonic imaginary that is regulated only by the
relations of power and its ideological support system to itself.
Keywords: collective memory in the Balkans, post-cold war national ideology,
lieux de mmoire, Buzluda, Gazimestan.
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

779

AUTORES

AUTORES

FLORENTINA ANDREESCU
Researcher holding a doctoral degree in International Studies from the
University of Miami, USA. Her work investigates transitions from communism
and planned economy to democracy and capitalism using an integrated cultural
and psychoanalytical method of analysis. She published in Nationalities Papers
and Tamkang Journal of International Affairs. Florentina is currently working on a
book project titled Transition, Nation, State, and Structure of Fantasy in the Romanian
Experience. (f.andreescu@umiami.edu)

ELENA ARHIRE
BA in Political Science of the Department of Political Sciences, University of
Bucharest and her main research field is that of art and politics in postcommunist
countries with a special focus on cinematography. (arhire.e@gmail.com)

MARINA ALINA ASAVEI


PhD researcher at Central European University in Budapest. She also works as
freelance art and media theorist. Her main areas of interest are: social philosophy,
cultural studies, art and disability, aesthetics of resistance or silence, forms of
artistic engagement during and after totalitarian regimes, ethics and politics.
(alinaasavei@yahoo.com)

SIMON PAUL BELL


Was educated at Reading University and Guildford School of Acting, with an
MA in Contemporary Performance from Cambridge. He is a freelance director of
over 110 productions, co-founder of the Regenerator Theatre Company, resident
director of the Theatre of the Wheel, and for the past 17 years Associate Director of
the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival. He has taught theatre and acting at various
major drama schools in the UK. He is currently a lecturer in Performing Arts and
PhD candidate at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, conducting research into
Laibach and the NSK, and Central and Eastern European performance praxis.
(simonbell@hotmail.com)

AMY CHARLESWORTH
PhD candidate and teaching assistant at the University of Leeds, UK in the History
of Art department. Her research is based on the role of the contemporary videoessay and its relationship with the documentary in recent art discourse. Her thesis
examines this nebulous genre, its social construction and its relationship with the
construction and representation of the fragmentation of life lived under global
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

780

AUTORES

capitalist social relations. The thesis focuses specifically on womens labour and
the historical and current entangled relationship with the demands of work
moving from a Fordist to biopolitical capitalism. (a.charlesworth@leeds.ac.uk)

ELENA GKARTZONIKA
PhD candidate in Balkan History at the Department of History & Archaeology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Ioannina (Greece) with a doctoral
dissertation on the Balkan Social and State Structures in the Late-Middle Ages.
(gkartzonika@yahoo.com)

ANDREI POAM
PhD candidate at the cole Doctorale, Sciences Po, Paris, holds a MA in Political
Theory (Sciences Po, Paris) and an MSc in Criminology (Faculty of Law,
University of Oxford). His main research topics include: executive clemency, penal
philosophy, political theory, popular justice, the epistemology of social sciences.
Research assistant and in charge of seminars for the course Introduction to political
science (Sciences Po, Paris), since 2009; senior lecturer for the course of applied
political philosophy Right or Wrong: Ethics and Politics (2011-2012); teaching the
optional seminar Crime and Punishment According to Foucault (Sciences Po, Paris,
2011-2012). (andrei.poama@sciences-po.org)

ZORAN POPOSKI
Transdisciplinary artist and theorist, based in Hong Kong and Skopje. His
performances, videos and digital prints have been exhibited in more than 50
international exhibitions and festivals. He holds an MFA in New Media from
Donau Universitat Krems in Austria. Poposki is Lecturer in Aesthetics and Visual
Rhetoric at the University American College Skopjes School of Architecture and
Design. He is the author of a book on artistic practices in public space entitled
Prostori na mokta, Templum, Skopje, 2009. His main areas of research include new
media architecture, public interfaces and art as social practice. Website: www.
poposki.info. (zpoposki@uacs.edu.mk)

CATERINA PREDA
Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science, University of Bucharest
where she teaches classes on Arts and politics and Latin American politics.
Her fields of interest include: art and politics; dictatorships; artistic memory;
democratization studies; postcommunism; Latin American studies. Her most
recent publication was Dictators and Dictatorships: Artistic Expressions of the Political
in Romania and Chile (1970s-1989) No paso nada...? Dissertation.com, Florida, 2009
(http://www.universal-publishers.com/book.php?method=ISBN&book=15994
23103). (caterina.preda@studiapolitica.eu)

CRISTINA STOENESCU
MA student in arts and political sciences with a thesis on Art in Education:
Practices and Future Prospects. She graduated from the Faculty of Political Sciences
of the University of Bucharest and her studies evolve following interdisciplinary
approaches to topics such as the institutional analysis, practice and theory of
Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

AUTORES

781

image, non-formal education, cultural studies, education and active citizenship,


education trough art and cultural policies. (cristina.d.stoenescu@gmail.com)

TIJEN TUNALI
Artist and art historian. She holds degrees in Economics from Istanbul University
and Fine Arts from the State University of New York at Binghamton. She completed
her Masters in Visual Arts at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Currently,
she is undertaking a doctorate at the University of New Mexico analyzing the
condition of contemporary art and its transnational institutions in relation to the
neoliberal political and economic processes. In addition to academic journals in
the US such as Hemisphere and Hispanet Journal. (ttunali@unm.edu)

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

782

AUTORES

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

783

RECENSIONES

Editorial Policies and Instructions to Contributors


Manuscripts submitted for review are evaluated anonymously by two scholars, one of which
will be often a member of the Advisory Board. However, the Editors alone are responsible for
every final decision on publication of manuscripts. The Editors may suggest changes in the
manuscript in the interest of clarity and economy of expression. Such changes are not to be
made without consultation with the author(s). The authors should ensure that the paper is
submitted in final form. Page proofs will be supplied, but only errors in typesetting may be
corrected at this stage. Proofs should be corrected and returned within 10 days of receipt.
Three hardcopies of all manuscripts along with a digital copy in Microsoft should be submitted. Two of three copies will have all self-references deleted. An authors note and biographical
sketch may be included. Manuscripts will be accepted on the under standing that their content
is original and that they have not been previously published in a different form or language.
No manuscript will be considered for publication if it is concur rently under consideration by
another journal or press or is soon to be published elsewhere.
Articles will be edited to conform to Studia Politica style in matters of punctuation, capitalization and the like. References should conform to the following format:
references to books should list author(s), title, publisher, place of publication, year;
references to journal articles should list author(s), title of article, journal name, volume, year,
and inclusive pages;
references to works in edited volumes should list author(s), essay title, volume editor(s), volume title, publisher, place of publication, year, and inclusive pages.
All correspondence regarding contributions and books for review should be sent to the Editors:
Institute for Political Research at the University of Bucharest
Strada Spiru Haret nr. 8, 010175 Bucureti 1, ROMNIA
tel. (4021) 314 12 68 / fax (4021) 313 35 11
studia.politica@icp.ro
http://studiapolitica.ro

Information for Subscribers


All sample copies requests, orders, subscriptions and advertising should be sent to:
EDITURA C.H. BECK
Str. Serg. Nuu Ion nr. 2, sector 5, Bucureti
Tel.: 021.410.08.47; 021.410.08.09; 021.410.08.73; 021.410.08.46
Fax: 021.410.08.48
E mail: comenzi@beck.ro

Subscription rates for volume XI, 2011:


Romania: 69,90 RON
Outside Romania: 100 USD; 70

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

784

RECENSIONES

University of Bucharest
Department of Political Science
Institute for Political Research

The Department of Political Science at the University of Bucharest was founded in 1991 with
the purpose to act as a focal point for training and research in political science. The Department
offers its over one thousand undergraduate students a full curriculum in three languages: English, French and Romanian. The Department fosters the highest standards of scholarly inquiry
while addressing issues of major political and social concern in the fields of political theory,
comparative politics, Romanian politics, international relations and European government
ands policies. The Department benefits from an exchange of students, and, occasionally, faculty
with numerous universities in France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Canada and the United States.
Several members of the faculty went on to serve as high officials and policy advisors for different post-communist administrations, whereas others helped transform the scope and methods
of political science in Romanian academia.
The Institute for Political Research was established within the Department of Political Science
in 1995, in order to provide faculty and students with the opportunity to get rigorous training
while focusing their research on a set of broad theoretical themes and empirical topics. Four
years latter, in 1999, the Institute became a graduate school and received authorization to offer
M.A. and Ph.D. degrees on behalf of the University of Bucharest. To this end, the Institute
has mounted a number of innovative programs that build on the interests of both faculty and
students. The M.A. programs in Political Theory, Romanian Politics, Comparative Politics,
International Relations, and the Government, Politics and Policies of the European Union,
as well as a Ph.D. program in political science enroll over two hundred graduate students.
The Institute offers students the opportunity to work with scholars from Western Europe and
North America. In this international setting, those interested in studying Romanian politics
and society do so in a comparative perspective. By editing its own journal, Studia Politica.
Romanian Political Science Review, the Institute tries to facilitate and promote more extensive
cooperation among scholars interested in Romanian polity, post-communist transition and the
study of democracy.

Romanian Political Science Review vol. XI no. 4 2011

Exemplare

DESTINATAR
Editura C.H. Beck
Bucureti, O.P. 83, C.P. 90
Tel.: +40 21 410.08.73; Fax: +40 21 410.08.48
E-mail: comenzi@beck.ro
Cont: RO06RZBR0000060003338540
Raifeisen Bank, Ag. Sebastian
Cont: RO82FNNB001201052424RO02
Credit Europe Bank (Rom) - Suc. Doamnei
Cont: RO08TREZ7005069XXX002640
ATCP Municipiul Bucureti

SE

Alexandru Radu

TA
DE XEAZ
STIN
A LA
IE

C.R
.

CO
RE
SP
R OND
SPU EN
NS

Forme de guvernare n 29 de state

C.H. Beck

TALON DE COMANDA

Sisteme politice contemporane

&

Negocierea / A. Stimec

Titlu / Autor
Sisteme politice contemporane / A. Radu

Analiza modului n care funcioneaz democraiile


contemporane prezint un interes att pentru
specialitii sau viitorii specialiti din domeniu, ct i
pentru publicul larg cetenii asupra crora se
aplic regulile instituionale i pentru politicieni, cei
chemai s le aplice.
A ti care sunt aceste reguli, cum sunt ele codificate
n documente, care sunt practicile politice i, nu n
ultimul, a surprinde schimbrile instituionale din
sistemele democratice contemporane, pentru a le
putea compara cu situaia din Romnia, sunt
obiectivele pe care i le propune aceast lucrare,
dincolo de cele teoretice i tiinifice intrinseci.

DA, vreau s comand urmtoarele titluri:

Talon de comand

216 pag., 34,90 lei


ISBN 978-973-115-845-7

Datele dvs. de nregistrare sunt confideniale i pot fi folosite doar n scopuri asociate comercializrii produselor Editurii C.H. Beck. Preurile pot fi schimbate n orice moment, fr notificarea prealabil a clientului, iar comenzile se onoreaz n limita stocului disponibil. Ateptm cu interes rspunsul dvs.

Jude/Sector:
Achitat cu OP/
Mandat potal nr.:
Nr. Reg. Com.:

Localitate:
Telefon / Fax:
CUI/CNP:

Nr.:
Cont:
Firm:

Nume persoan de contact:

EXPEDITOR

Banca:

Strada:

Bl.:

Semntura:

Sc.:

Cod potal:

Ap.:

Negocierea
Arnaud Stimec

120 pag., 29,90 lei


ISBN 978-973-115-933-1

Negocierea ocup o mare parte din timp, att n


activitatea profesional, ct i n viaa personal.
V propunem o lucrare concis care prezint n
perspectiv principalele demersuri ale negocierii,
definind mizele acestora i descriind modul n care se
pot depi obstacolele. Ilustrat prin numeroase
exemple practice, cartea se sprijin cu precdere
pe modelul de referin al negocierii metodice i
ofer cititorului un parcurs de pregtire complet i
eficient.
Clar i pedagogic, noua ediie va prezenta interes
pentru studeni, manageri n general i cei formatori n
special, dar i pentru toi cei implicai sau care se vor
implica n diverse nelegeri, acorduri sau adaptri
necesare n viaa profesional i n cea social.